by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 11-6-13
ORLEANS — The Lake Region Union High School Rangers varsity volleyball team concluded its season on a high note, edging the visiting Randolph Galloping Ghosts 3-1 on Monday afternoon. The win, Lake Region’s first of the season, provided the team with just the confidence boost it needs heading into the championship tournament on Saturday, November 9, at Johnson State College.
Monday’s game was not part of either school’s regular season schedule, Randolph Coach Sue Nevins said. But it was a golden opportunity for both teams to tune up for this coming weekend’s tournament.
“Lake Region came to us earlier this season, so we thought it would be nice to return the favor,” Coach Nevins said. “Our AD found a way to make it happen so here we are.”
Like the Rangers, the Galloping Ghosts have struggled in the sport’s first recognized varsity season. Unlike Lake Region, however, Randolph’s program began only this year, Coach Nevins said. While many schools have had volleyball club programs for nearly a decade, it took a long time for the Vermont Principal’s Association (VPA) to recognize it as a varsity sport.
“Vermont is one of the last states in the country to have varsity volleyball,” Lake Region Coach Peter Auclair said. “Now that it’s here, we plan to keep it going and see it grow.”
As a fall indoor sport, volleyball’s potential to grow is virtually limitless. There’s no need to compete for gymnasium time, and the vagaries of weather don’t matter, so getting a team on the court is limited only by the number of students who want to participate.
“I started playing volleyball in middle school,” Lake Region’s Alora Rowell said. “I really liked it a lot so I joined the team. It’s just a lot of fun to play.”
Fun is the operative word for this Rangers team, Coach Auclair said. While he wants the girls to develop as players and teammates, he also wants to reinforce the fact that it is a game and games are meant to be enjoyable.
“The attitude of this team and the boys team has always been very positive,” Coach Auclair said. “No one goes out on that court and plays a perfect game every time. When you make that bad hit you need to shake it off and come back. As a team, they’ve always been very supportive of one another.”
That supportive atmosphere has been tested time and again as the girls struggled through the season. Though their win-loss record may not indicate it, this Rangers team has remained highly competitive throughout the year.
“We’ve never been blown out,” Coach Auclair said. “All of our games have been pretty close. We’ve just had trouble finishing it.”
On Monday evening, that competitive spirit extended to the visiting Ghosts as well. Lake Region would take the first two games 25-23 and 25-21, respectively. Randolph battled back in the third game, largely on the strength of the serves of Shara Gunawan. Gunawan was virtually un-hittable, racking up 11 straight points for the Ghosts.
Though the Rangers were faced with a daunting deficit, they fought back. In increments sometimes consisting of just two to three points per rally, Lake Region clawed back into contention. The Ghosts would hang on for the 25-23 win to force a fourth game.
The fourth set would turn out to be the deciding match of the day as Lake Region again pulled out a 25-23 win to take the match. For the Lake Region squad, it was a hard-earned but satisfying end to the regular season.
“Even though we haven’t won a lot of games, we’ve always had fun playing,” Rowell said. “It does feel nice to have earned this one. We were just playing very well as a team and everything kind of came together.”
The Lake Region girls will take on top seed Mid-Vermont Christian in the first round of Saturday’s tournament. The game is scheduled for a 9 a.m. start. The Lake Region boys will face number three seed Lyndon in the boys tournament with a 9:40 a.m. start.
The tournament introduces a new wrinkle in that the teams are expected to complete two sets within half an hour. Unlike regular season play, the first team to 15 points will be the winner.
“That makes winning that first set quite important,” Coach Auclair said. “In the second set you are either trying to get to eight first or keep your opponent from doing so. That second game is only official if one team reaches eight points first and the time runs out.”