By Chad Robert Snyder
Special to the Pilot
The lady volleyball Bruins narrowly lost their season opener to the Gold Beach Panthers Tuesday night in four sets: 20-25, 25-23,17-25 19-25 .
Despite digging themselves an early hole in the first set at one point trailing 4-15 the revamped Bruins never lost their cool and battled back. Although they ultimately lost the set 20-25, the varsity team displayed tensity while mounting a comeback aided by a series of powerful jump-serves by senior Dani Olson.
"They came back, we just gave them too many points," said varsity coach Lori Cooper.
Cooper gave her girls a lot of credit for not letting up given the situation. Their attitude never suffered and they remained focused on the game.
"We did fight, we just haven't found out who we are yet," Cooper said.
The girls played extremely hard in the in second frame, winning the hotly contested set 25-23. Highlights of the set included a number of critical digs by senior Breanne Manley, who single-handedly kept a number of crucial points alive.
The set also featured a number of well-executed assists by senior Molly Vance who was instrumental in feeding Olson balls, which she ultimately drove into the Panther's backcourt.
Coach Cooper pointed out that the girls would have to do a lot more of this if they intend to win games. "Our passing needs to improve," she said, also noting that proper technique plays a role in getting the ball to players in positions where they can be successful.
Sophomore Danielle Ambrose also contributed in the assists columns, setting up her teammates seven times for kills. Her development is a promising sign to coach Cooper who noted, "We're still young, despite having four seniors in the rotation."
The team continued to compete ferociously in the third and forth sets, but a number of the stronger Panther players began establishing a rhythm offensively.
"They are a good serving team," Cooper said. She also noted the Panther's ability to serve effectively exposed her team's need to defend more effectively.
"You need to be in a strong defensive position to win," she said.
The Bruins dropped the final two sets and lost the match, but they continued to scrap until the last point.
Cooper said regardless of the outcome, she was pleased with what she saw. She also saw even greater potential in the team, saying, "They'll come together, it'll just take time."
She also mentioned there were already moments when the team played exceptionally well together.
"We had spurts where we were working together, but then we'd lose it," said Cooper.
One issue she noted, however, is that despite the fact she sees local leadership in practice, it didn't necessarily translate onto the floor Tuesday night. "We need leaders. We need to carry the leadership into the games," she said, but also added she was confident the girls were fully capable of supplying the guidance the team needs on the court.
The junior varsity girls were also in action on Tuesday night, knocking off the Panther's JV team in three sets: 25-14, 24-26, 15-8.
The sets were punctuated by the quality play of a number of underclassmen including Briana Gutierrez and Brianna Juarez. Both provided a number of solid serves and played heads-up at the net, blocking shots and skillfully executing kill shots.
JV coach Pat Berkowitz singled out sophomore Nicole Watterson for her essential presence, especially at the net. "Nicole played big at the net for us. It took away the other teams offense," he said, pointing to several key blocks and tipping kills she made in the three set victory.
The Lady Bruins will be in action again at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night on the road versus Illinois Valley.