Lady Pilgrims lose opener despite fast start

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth’s volleyball team jumped off to a fast start to its season Tuesday.
Unfortunately for the Lady Pilgrims, however, they couldn’t maintain their early momentum, ultimately succumbing to a strong LaPorte squad in three games, 27-25, 25-15, 25-20.
Plymouth jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the first set and played LaPorte point for point in a first game that featured seven ties. The Pilgrims led the Slicers 23-21 and looked like they would grab an early win before the visitors rallied with three straight points to jump into the lead. Plymouth led again at 25-24, but LaPorte closed it out with the final three points to claim the extended 27-25 win.
After that disappointing first-set loss, the Pilgrims never led again in the match.
“In games two and three, we never got ourselves in position again to be taking the game to them,” said Plymouth head coach Doug West. “Their ball control was a little bit better than ours — they had the ball moving to their setter zone pretty consistently — and of course we’re working on that, but we need to get our ball moving into the setter zone as much as them.
“Of course it would have been nice to get that game. I think they played steady all three games. We were the ones that were up and down.”
LaPorte rode the momentum to an early 3-0 lead in the second game, although Plymouth was able to tie it up at 9-all, 10-all and 12-all before an 8-1 run by the Slicers spaced it out en route to a 25-15 win and two-game lead.
LaPorte again cruised out to an early lead in the third set, jumping on Plymouth 8-1. The Pilgrims rallied back with a 7-2 spurt that pulled them within three at 22-19, but they never got out in front, falling 25-20 to lose in straight sets at The Rock.
“That’s something that we’re going to build on, and we’re going to talk about it and keep pushing for it,” said West of his team’s late rally. “But being ahead and taking control of the match that way and not having to come back, that’s something that we have to work on.”
The Pilgrims were led by three-year standout setter Haley Harrell’s 26 assists, five kills and 15 digs in the season-opening loss, while fellow junior Hunter Stevens tallied eight kills to lead a balanced Plymouth attack that saw Emily Eveland, Cassi Quissell, Libbie Portteus and Harrell each finish with five kills. Quissell also served up three aces on 9-of-10 serving and passed out 18 digs behind Eveland’s team-high 26, and Lacy Poczik notched four blocks at the net.
The team has few holdovers from last season’s campaign besides Harrell and Stevens, and will be looking to bring some young players up to speed quickly. Ball control will be key to the team’s success in 2013, says West.
“This is (Haley’s) third year; she’s the only six-rotation starter from last year’s team. Hunter was a three-rotation starter,” said West. “We’ve got a lot of new faces. They’re a fun group, they’re a hard-working group. I have a lot of confidence in our team, but we’ve got to just perform more in the area of ball-handling… We’ll give lots of repetitions and hopefully just improve with our ball control and getting the ball to our setters so we have hitters approaching with good acceleration and we have two or three options more consistently.”
Also Tuesday, Plymouth’s JV fell to LaPorte, 25-20, 25-12, and the freshman Pilgrims grabbed a win in the first set before falling in a nip-tuck 20-25, 25-23, 15-14 decision.
Plymouth looks for its first win as it hosts Penn Thursday at 6 p.m.
• LaPORTE 3, PLYMOUTH 0
(27-25, 25-15, 25-20)
At Plymouth
Plymouth leaders
Kills: Hunter Stevens 8, Libbie Portteus 5, Haley Harrell 5, Emily Eveland 5, Cassi Quissell 5.
Aces: Quissell 3.
Blocks: Lacy Poczik 4, Portteus 3, Stevens 2.
Assists: Harrell 26.
Digs: Eveland 26, Quissell 18, Ellen Smith 17, Harrell 15.
Records: Plymouth 0-1, LaPorte 1-0.
JV score: LaPorte 2, Plymouth 0 (25-20, 25-12).
JV record: Plymouth 0-1.
Freshman score: LaPorte 2, Plymouth 1 (20-25, 25-23, 15-14).
Freshman record: Plymouth 1-1.