by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 9-27-2013
ORLEANS — Gratia Rowell was slightly out of breath but all smiles even as the visiting Enosburg Hornets walked off the court with a victory on Friday night. Rowell, a member of the Lake Region Rangers volleyball team, was thoroughly pleased with the level of competition her team put up on the day in spite of the outcome.
“It’s a team sport,” boys varsity Ranger Clark Hayden said. “It’s not about one player, it’s about the whole team.”
Lake Region’s volleyball program is entering its sixth year, but this is the first season that the Vermont Principal’s Assocation (VPA) has recognized volleyball as an official varsity sport.
Though the Hornets took the first two games from the girls varsity team there was nothing in the final tally to suggest Lake Region was overmatched. the Hornets took the first set 26 to 24 and the second set 27 to 25. Not willing to just roll over, the Rangers rebounded with a stunning 25 to 18 win in the third set and the fourth set 25 to 21 to force the deciding fifth set.
Asked what had changed between the first two games and the next two games, Rowell conceded that nothing had.
“We thought we played pretty well in the first two so we knew that we could step up,” Rowell said. “We just went out there with a lot of energy. We knew that if we just kept up that energy we could win.”
Rowell’s personal energy stores were certainly at their peak in game three where Rowell and the Rangers won six consecutive serves to vault into an early lead. Indeed, it would mark the turning point of the set.
The fifth and final set was decided by the first team to record 15 points. The Hornets regained composure and eventually triumphed 15 to 11 to take the girls varsity half of the evening’s doubleheader.
Much of the Hornets’ success was attributable to the solid play of Josie Curtis. Curtis had a mean serve that perfectly blended hard strikes with low angles. If the Rangers were not in position to return the ball cleanly right from the start, Curtis’ serves were virtually unplayable.
“She’s a very good player,” Enosburg Head Coach Jason Robtoy said after the game. “Our serving, with the exception of Josie, was inconsistent. Lake Region played a very solid game against us today.”
Curtis finished the night 25 for 28 on serves to go along with 12 aces, four kills, four assists and two blocks. While Curtis’ individual stat lines were impressive, Coach Robtoy reinforced the notion that volleyball is won by a team and not an individual.
“We won today because we stuck to our game plan,” Coach Robtoy said. “The passing is what makes volleyball. Those hits at the net don’t happen without good passing.”
After the girls had cleared the court it was time for Hayden and his Ranger teammates to take on the boys varsity Hornets. While Enosburg was able to boast a deep bench, Lake Region’s varsity squad numbered the bare minimum six players able to take the court. Though seven members are on the squad, the Rangers have not played with more than six players all season long, Hayden said.
Asked how the squad managed to keep up the intensity throughout the game, Hayden replied that the Rangers do have some secret weapons up their sleeves.
“Two or three of us are long distance runners which helps,” Hayden said. “There’s also the screaming and yelling. We scream and yell to pump each other up.”
“There’s very good team spirit,” Ranger Albert Schandl agreed.
That team spirit enabled the Rangers to recover from a first set defeat of 25 to 12 with a win of their own in set two with a score of 25 to 21. Despite some on-court heroics by the Rangers, the Hornets would eventually win two more sets, 25 to 13 and 25 to 19, to capture the game.
Zeb McCoy was overwhelmingly positive about how the Rangers handled the evening’s competition. Lake Region’s performance was far better than any they had seen this season, he said.
“When we talk more, communicate, we play so much better,” McCoy said. “I was pretty happy with how we played. I know we can do better.”
Though the crowd was small for Friday’s match, fans were treated to an exhibition of speed and skill from both schools. Some people might think that volleyball is a slow, leisurely game reserved for backyard barbecues and gym class. Rowell assured the Chronicle that it is not.
“Communication is so important because you don’t have that much time to decide to make a play and then get there to make it,” Rowell said. “You’re always moving and that’s what I love about volleyball. It’s a real workout.”
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