Grace Rally Tops Hixson In Volleyball Opener

Monday, August 19, 2019 - by John Hunt
Grace’s Miriam Ateca, Holley Fulgham, and Meg Long watch as Hixson’s Gabby Tench sets up a shot.
Grace’s Miriam Ateca, Holley Fulgham, and Meg Long watch as Hixson’s Gabby Tench sets up a shot.
- photo by M.A. Locke

High school volleyball teams have been practicing for several weeks and no doubt, are ready for a real match so they can show what they’ve learned so far.

Monday was the first day of the season.  No question some coaches were happier than others with final results, but it’s a good bet that all identified multiple areas where improvement needs to be made if they have a chance of accomplishing team goals.

Such was the case at Hixson on Monday where the Lady Wildcats entertained the Grace Academy Lady Golden Eagles.

Hixson won the first set by a 25-20 score before the Lady Golden Eagles prevailed by winning the next three by scores of 25-19, 25-22 and 25-21.

Both of these teams are better than average and both should win a lot of matches.  Both also have new players in key positions, so things will only get better for both as the season progresses.

“We’ve been working really hard to stay focused and play together and that first set was a good test of that,” said Grace coach Laurie McGinley shortly after the first match had ended.

“I feel like we’ve been ready to play for several days, but we need real matches to figure stuff out.  I felt like our serving was good today and that was a big key, but it’s a long and exciting season and we’re just getting started.

“But I liked the way we came back after that first set. That’s a testament to how hard we’ve worked in recent weeks,” she said with a smile.

While McGinley thought that serving was a difference, Hixson coach Robert Catlett said the same thing almost immediately in his post-match comments.

“Our serve receive has to be a lot better than it was today.  Grace did a nice job of serving it all over the court, but they hit a lot of short balls that we didn’t get to,” he began.

“This is our first match and we still have a lot of kinks to work out, but I was hoping for a bit more fire from these girls.  We were eager to play a match and I thought that both teams were pretty equal.

“We did a nice job blocking, but our passing wasn’t on.  We have to get better in a hurry,” Catlett admitted.

Grace used seven straight service points from Victoria Betrous to build a 9-2 lead in the first set and it was 11-2 before Hixson started its comeback.

Back-to-back aces from Abby Rector allowed the Lady Wildcats to knot the score at 12.  It was tied again at 19-19 following a Grace service error before Hixson took the lead by scoring six of the next seven points.

Hixson scored the first two points of the second set, but a Lady Wildcat service error allowed Grace to take a 4-3 lead and Hixson never regained the lead again.

A kill from Emma Poppert extended Grace’s lead to 17-11 before Hixson rallied to knot the score at 18.  Two aces by Meg Long wrapped around a kill by Lainey Barrow allowed the Lady Eagles to score six of the final seven points to even the match at one set apiece.

The Lady Golden Eagles finished the match with 17 total aces and it was that service efficiency that ultimately allowed the visitors to prevail.

Holley Fulgham had nine kills to lead the Grace front line while Barrow was next with eight.  Betrous had 13 digs while Long was credited with 11.  Both long and Fulgham had five aces while Miriam Ateca had 28 assists.

Abby Rector had nine kills, six digs and five aces to lead Hixson while Gabby Tench had 25 assists and 14 digs.  Riley Bellamy had five blocks and five digs while Kirby Brown was impressive with four blocks in her first varsity match ever.

Both teams return to action on Tuesday with Grace traveling to face Christian Heritage.  Hixson will be back at home to host a three-way meet with Notre Dame and Gordon Lee.

Hixson will also be hosting the Hixson Invitational on Saturday at Hixson Middle School with eight teams competing.  Those eight include defending champion Upperman, Boyd-Buchanan, Lookout Valley, Berean, Central, the home-schooled Patriots, Sequatchie Co. and Hixson.

GRACE STATS:

Meg Long – 4 kills, 11 digs, 5 aces

Victoria Betrous – 13 digs, 2 aces

Holley Fulgham – 9 kills, 2 blocks, 3 digs, 5 aces

McKenna Pickett – 1 dig

Emma Poppert – 4 kills, 1 block, 1 dig

Miriam Ateca – 28 assists, 1 block, 4 digs, 4 aces

Lainey Barrow – 8 kills, 1 block, 1 dig, 1 ace

Abby McGaughey – 2 kills, 1  block, 5 digs, 2 aces.

HIXSON STATS:

Abby Rector – 5 aces, 9 kills, 3 blocks, 6 digs

Gabby Tench – 4 kills, 1 block, 25 assists, 14 digs

Kirby Brown – 4 blocks

Makenna Seitz – 11 digs

Jenna Westfall – 2 aces, 5 digs

Ava Rogers – 5 aces, 5 kills, 1 assist, 7 digs

Izabel Todd – 1 kill, 1 block, 2 digs

Riley Bellamy – 3 kills, 5 blocks, 5 digs

Jamiyah Alford – 1 ace, 6 digs.

(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@gmail.com)


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