Thus far, the Brookings-Harbor volleyball team have had a rather bumpy preseason.
After dropping a hard fought five-set match again Bandon in their season opener, the Bruins suffered consecutive sweeps against Bandon, Phoenix, and North Valley on the road.
Moreover, the preseason has been made all the more tumultuous as a number of practices and games have been repeatedly cancelled or rescheduled thanks to the constantly changing levels of the air quality from the Chetco Bar Fire.
Therefore, Tuesday night’s home opener against Douglas High offered not only a break from their travels on the road but a chance to recollect themselves in front of a home crowd.
“We faced some pretty tough competition in preseason and I think that bettered us,” said head coach Emilie Preiser. “Even though we didn’t win it worked into our benefit.”
Unfortunately, the Bruins still found themselves plagued by the same issues they encountered in preseason, as they fell to Douglas in straight sets (25-10, 25-16, 25-16) to drop to 0-5 on the season.
“Douglas is a different team than what we’re used to in the past: we’re used to Douglas running quicker sets, faster hits, and they didn’t do that this year so we should’ve been able to compete a little bit better,” Preiser said. “We still really struggle with the mental part of it where if we make a mistake or two or three, we let that take over, and we can’t get past that roadblock.”
The Bruins were paced by junior libero Kaylee Strain in their losing effort, who totaled three kills on nine swings on 0.222 hitting in addition six digs. Senior outside hitter Malia Leddy and junior middle blocker Brooke Hodges each contributed two kills at a 0.00 clip.
While the team totaled a lackluster -0.132 hitting percentage, their woes don’t stem from the lack of a serviceable skillset, but rather from what Presider believes to be a weak mindset.
Throughout the night, the Bruins had various short spurts where they demonstrated glimpses of their potential —such as when senior outside hitter Barrieanne Fallert lifted the Bruins to a 14-12 lead from the service line after trailing 8-12, or when senior middle blocker Tisha Bailey pounded the ball through two Trojan defenders to put the Bruins up 9-7 in the third.
However, these moments were largely overshadowed by large stretches of various attack and ball-handling errors — errors that Presider says can be chalked up to the team’s tendency to set obstacles in their own mind.
“It’s totally mental, 110 percent mental. And volleyball’s 90 percent mental, 10 percent fundamentals and athletic ability, and it’s when they hit that roadblock, they cannot get past it,” Preiser said. “This program has been a losing program for so long, the girls just don’t believe they deserve it, don’t think they’re good enough to accomplish it, and they are. They physically have the skill they just have to be able to put it all together.”
In the first set, Brookings-Harbor jumped out to a strong start with Leddy knocking down back to back to kills for a 2-1 lead. However, the Bruins gave away three straight points off a service, attack, and ball-handling error to go down 4-2. The Bruins soon found themselves trailing 16-6 and could not overcome the 10-point deficit.
The Bruins put forth a much more competitive effort in the second set, where they rallied off seven straight points to take a 14-12 lead off the strong serving of Fallert. The Trojans would respond with a 4-0 run after siding out, and the Bruins would only score two more points before dropping to 2-0 in the match.
The Bruins never trailed the Trojans by more than three points in the majority of the third set — even holding a 9-7 lead at one point. After cutting the deficit to 14-16 however, the Bruins struggled to side-out and the Trojans completed the sweep on a 9-2 run.
“We have highs and lows, I like to call our team bipolar sometimes,” Presider said. “We literally can be the highest of highs, and just be on it, and then one little thing changes and it’s just crash and burn. That’s part of that mental (game).”
And according to Preiser, now in her fourth-year with the program, that mental issue isn’t one that can be remedied over the course of one season, let alone one game.
“It probably will continue until the girls themselves truly believe that they are capable of more than what they’re showing.”