There’s nothing quite like the jitters and general nervousness that goes along with playing in front of the home crowd for the first time.
Add to that the pressure of making a good impression on a new coach and you can see what the GPS volleyball team was going through Monday evening.
Despite all the outside factors and the fact GPS was facing undefeated Chattanooga Christians, the Bruisers were able to come from behind twice to record the straight-set victory, winning by scores of 25-22 and 25-21.
GPS improves to 5-1 overall while CCS is now 7-1.
The Lady Chargers had gotten off to a great start, winning all seven of their matches in the opening week of the season and topping it off with a championship performance in the Hixson Invitational on Saturday.
Things didn’t go quite as well on the second Monday of the season.
Jasmine Brown is the first-year head coach for GPS. She is a former Bruiser volleyball standout who played for Paul Brock, so she knows a little bit about doing well in pressure situations.
Her girls received a passing grade on Monday.
“It was our first home match and we were playing in front of a bigger crowd than normal, so that’s why we had the jitters at first,” Brown said after the gym had cleared.
“There are times when we struggle handling the easy balls and Chattanooga Christian was able to attack our weakness, but we finally got into a rhythm and things turned out okay. We were uptight and tense at the beginning, but we finally relaxed and played more loose.
“Expectations are always high for this program and we wanted to play well in our first match at home. I’m just glad to get the first one out of the way,” she added.
CCS coach Sarah Stutheit has been preaching mental toughness since workouts first began several months ago. She realizes that there’s still work to be done.
“I thought we played well at the beginning, but we sort of lost our mental focus and resorted to our old habits when they started coming back. It all comes down to playing with confidence and I think we got a little intimidated,” she expressed.
“We needed to shut down Preslee Brooksbank and we didn’t. I’ve been really happy with the way we’ve been playing, but not as much today. I feel like we should have won this match, but we need to refocus and be ready tomorrow as we face a really good Baylor team,” Stutheit added.
CCS raced to a 10-3 lead in the first set before four straight service points from Faith Copeland got the Bruisers to within 10-8. Five straight points from Emily Day allowed that lead to stretch back to 19-10 before the home team rallied again, scoring five straight points to get within 20-15.
A kill from Preslee Brooksbank got the Bruisers within four at 22-18, setting the stage for seven straight service points from Kylie Barry to win the first set.
Neither team had a lead of more than three points in the second set, but four straight points from Brooksbank turned a 17-15 deficit into a 19-17 lead.
The score was tied two more times at 19-19 and 20-20 but back-to-back kills from Reagan Long and Brooksbank gave GPS the lead at 22-20 and the Bruisers closed out the match a minute later when Brooksbank notched her eighth kill.
While Brooksbank led the hitters for GPS with those eight kills, Copeland had eight assists. Brooksbank and Barry both had four digs.
A.J. Johnson had five kills for the Lady Chargers while Grace Logterman and Savannah Ricketts both had four each. Lauren Day had 11 digs while Emily Day had seven assists.
While CCS will face defending D-II, Class AA state champ Baylor at home on Tuesday, GPS returns to action at home on Thursday with a region match against St. Cecelia before facing region foes Pope John Paul II and Ensworth in Nashville this weekend.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN STATS:
Emily Day – 2 aces, 7 assists, 1 kill, 2 digs
Lauren Day – 11 digs
A.J. Johnson – 5 kills, 6 digs
Summer Jones – 4 digs
Lauren Kay – 7 digs
Rachel Kay – 8 assists, 3 digs
Grace Logterman – 4 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig
Abbey Massey – 3 kills, 1 dig
Avery Ray – 1 assist, 4 digs
Savannah Ricketts – 4 kills, 3 digs.
Faith Copeland – 2 aces, 1 kill, 8 assists, 3 digs
Preslee Brooksbank – 8 kills, 1 ace, 4 digs
Chapel Cunningham – 1 kill
Kendall Crum – 3 kills, 2 digs
Kylie Barry – 4 digs
Reagan Long – 4 kills, 1 block
Karly Benefield – 3 digs
Charlotte Vance – 3 digs
Anabelle Clower – 1 kill.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)