WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College definitely competed – especially in the first and third sets – but the Skipjacks still couldn't avoid a women's volleyball sweep Thursday night at the hands of visiting Allegany College of Maryland.
The Trojans (3-4 overall, 1-1 league) held off Chesapeake, 25-21, 25-9 and 25-22, thanks in large part to greater consistency and better court balance. Allegany used that court balance to successfully cover many of the Skipjacks' most promising hitting attempts, while the Trojans repeatedly exploited holes in the middle of Chesapeake's defense.
Allegany head coach Mike Bittner said he thought the Trojans' improving communication was the key to his squad's defensive effort.
"Our communication in the preseason was real sketchy and you can see the communication is getting better and better," said Bittner, who just moved up from assistant coach after Cherie DeVore resigned as head coach to accept a position in the public schools.
Chesapeake head coach Michelle Dennis – who thought her team played competitively a night earlier in a three-set loss to conference power Harford Community College – said inconsistency was the main culprit in the Skipjacks' latest loss.
"In spurts we did play well," said Dennis. "In fact, they played really well for periods of time, but then they would get down, lose a couple of serves and it was hard for them to get back."
The first set featured eight ties as the Skipjacks stayed competitive behind Sydney Butler, who had three kills and an ace in the game's first nine points. Butler (match-high nine kills) finished with four kills and a pair of aces in the opening set.
Brittany VanMeter put Allegany in front to stay, 14-13, with a service ace that just trickled over the net. That started a four-point run on VanMeter's serve as the Trojans built a 17-13 cushion.
Chesapeake pulled within three points on six separate occasions, the last time at 24-21 on a Courtney Stubbs hit, but Allegany's Danita Burkett finished the set with a point-scoring block.
Allegany took control of the second set right at the start, building a 6-0 lead on Brooke Devlin's serve as Devlin served a pair of aces. Devlin also had a pair of point-scoring dinks later in the set for the Trojans.
"I think one key was we got on a roll every single time Brooke Devlin served," said Bittner, adding, "I thought our momentum [from the first set] rolled right into the second set."
Chesapeake (0-4, 0-3) used a 6-1 run, highlighted by a block and a dink for points from Butler, to pull within 10-8. Allegany, however, regained control with a 6-0 spurt – which Kerenne Shaffer (team-high seven match kills) started and ended with kills – and then reeled off the set's final nine points.
The Trojans rushed out to a 4-0 cushion in the third set – giving them 19 of the previous 20 points – and took their biggest lead of the set at 14-8 on a Shaffer kill. Chesapeake, however, ran off eight straight points – the last seven on Maya Robinson's serve – to suddenly grab a 16-14 advantage.
"My main goal was to not hit it too hard but to hit it to the right spots. I also didn't want to think about it too much," Robinson said of her serving strategy. "I thought it [the comeback] was amazing. Our intensity really went through the roof. When we have that type of intensity as a team we play so much better."
"They picked up their intensity; they were getting serves in – more than one at a time – and they did great," said Dennis. "If they could play like they did in that stretch – with that intensity, moving their feet, getting their serves in, being aggressive – they would have won three games tonight."
Chesapeake still led by two points, 18-16, after a Stubbs ace before the Trojans ran off three straight points to go back in front.
Katie Worm retied the game with a point-scoring tip, and a Butler kill regained the lead for Chesapeake at 20-19. A net violation against the Skipjacks evened the score before a Butler tip gave Chesapeake its last lead at 21-20.
"Number 8 is good, she's very good," Bittner said of Butler.
Kiersten Miller's back-to-the-net desperation hit found a hole in Chesapeake's defense to retie the game at 21 and start a 4-0 Trojan run. Shaffer followed Miller's clutch play with consecutive kills and Stubbs couldn't save a ball near the Chesapeake sideline as Allegany took a 24-21 lead.
Two points later, Kamryn Logsdon's return found a final hole in the Chesapeake defense to seal the victory.
While pleased with various spurts of good play, Dennis said her team's offense broke down on the first hit on too many plays.
"We did not pass well," said Dennis. "Hits were high into the ceiling, which makes it difficult on our setter, and then that makes it difficult for our hitters. At practice the other day we worked on staying forward, walking the ball up to the setter. They do it for a while, but they just don't do it consistently enough."