Denair High has had a hard time finding success on the court this season. In the first four Southern Athletic League matches the Coyotes’ (0-5 SAL) have only managed to win a total of three sets, creating a need for a confidence boost amongst the team. Similarly, Turlock Christian has also had a rough start to the season, dropping three of its first four matches in straight sets. Needless to say the Eagles (2-3) were also searching for much-needed confidence prior to Wednesday’s matchup with Denair.
Surprisingly, it was Denair that found its mojo first, playing point for point with TC and holding a lead for most of the first set. Senior captain Brigette Burgess (6 kills) led an offensive effort that focused on keeping the ball in play and forcing Eagle mistakes while juniors Alex Knapp (10 digs, 8 assists) and Holley McDiffett (1 block) operated defensively, frustrating TC’s hitters with a refusal to let the ball touch the ground.
“I didn’t expect that; they played remarkably well on defense,” TC’s head coach Ken Wynn said of Denair.
After trailing by as much as five points late in the set, the Eagles managed to shift the momentum and orchestrate a comeback, tying the match at the 23rd point before claiming a 25-23 victory.
“They realized they weren’t being aggressive,” Wynn said. “They were playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”
TC’s rally at the end of the first set carried over to the next two, much to the chagrin of the Coyotes. The Eagles minimized their hitting errors, taking their coaches advice of not holding back, and earned decisive victories of 25-10 and 25-9.
Junior Tiffany Franco put in an impressive individual effort with 19 assists, six blocks, and four digs.
“She always has an upbeat and competitive attitude,” Wynn said of his team’s silent leader. “She’s self motivated; she studies the game and always wants to improve.”
Sarah Amaral (11 kills) and Arin Morelli (six digs) complemented Franco’s effort with tough play of their own, covering the court with their speed and re-establishing power at the net.
“I was pleased that the girls came back after the first set,” Wynn said.
Denair remains winless in the SAL but Monday’s match against Waterford High presents an opportunity for the Coyotes to build on Wednesday’s performance.
TC faces Delhi High on Monday; a must win match if the Eagles are to turn their season around.