Archive for Thursday, September 14, 2006

A work in progress

Young Lions strive for consistent play on volleyball court

September 14, 2006

— If the Lansing High volleyball team's season could be summed up in one match so far, it likely would be Tuesday's three-game victory against Gardner-Edgerton.

Lansing (7-5) was at its best and worst during the match against Gardner, a traditionally strong opponent. LHS won the first game 25-17, but fell flat in a 25-14 game-two defeat. Then it hung on for a 25-23 victory in the decisive third game.

About the only thing consistent about the Lions' play was that they were inconsistent. That said, they also had plenty of moments where they looked flawless.

"It's like a rollercoaster," said Julie Slater, Lansing's 22nd-year coach. "We're battling unforced errors and inconsistency right now. It's a battle, but we're working on it.

"At the same time, I can't be more thrilled, because Gardner is a decent team and that was the first three-game match that we've won this year. That's a real plus. That just shows growth with your team."

Lansing came into the Tuesday dual flat as it dropped a match to Spring Hill, 25-21, 25-23. The loss was disappointing because the Lions beat the Broncos on Saturday at the Lansing Invitational.

"I think we were a little overconfident because we had beaten them and we just assumed we would do it again," senior Kate Courtney said. "We didn't talk, and we just sort of fell apart."

LHS got back on track in its next match as it cruised to an easy victory against Bonner Springs, 25-20, 25-18.

Then came the showdown with Gardner. Lansing opened game one on fire. It used three kills and a solo block from sophomore Brittney Lang and two kills from senior Jessie Delinger to take an 11-5 lead. Delinger pounded four more kills and Lang added another solo block before junior Kristen Jensen closed out the game with an ace.

Game two was tied 6-6 before the Lions lost their focus. Constant hitting errors and communication miscues contributed to the Trailblazers' game-ending 19-8 run.

"We had too many unforced errors : hitting errors," Slater said. "I'll bet we had 10 in that second game. When you're down six points, you can't be wailing away and hitting it out. You've got to make good decisions on the floor and know what you need to be doing."

Lansing refocused for game three, and the result was an all-around solid performance. Jensen recorded a kill and Courtney had three solo blocks as LHS bolted to a 6-2 lead. Gardner rallied and took a 16-14 lead, but freshman Rachel Milnark served the Lions to a 4-0 run that helped them regain control. Delinger pounded two kills and Lang added three more down the stretch before Courtney nailed a shot down the line to end the match.

Although Slater is frustrated with the inconsistent play, she said that is natural for a team that is as young as hers. Lansing has just three players back from last year's varsity roster. There are nine new faces on the squad, so molding the group together will take time.

Fortunately for Lansing, the Lions understand that they must be patient during the transition process.

"You're going to have your ups and downs because you're not used to playing with each other," Courtney said. "We are such a young team, but the more we play together, the more confident we're going to be. I think we'll get more consistent as the season goes on."

Lansing next plays at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Immaculata against Santa Fe Trail and Immaculata. It is the Kaw Valley League opener for all three teams. LHS is the defending league champion. Trail - which handed Lansing its only league loss in 2005 - is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A.


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