LEWISTOWN - The Mifflin County Huskies came out playing scrappy in their volleyball season opener. But despite the team's strong effort, the girls lost three straight sets to take a tough loss to Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division opponent Cedar Cliff.
Mismatch in size seemed to be the story of the match as Cedar Cliff dominated each set, winning 25-8, 25-9 and 25-14.
"Our undersize at the net is a big disadvantage against a lot of these schools," Mifflin County coach Matt Kern said.
In the first set it appeared Mifflin County might have a chance as the teams battled back and forth to keep service of the ball, but toward the middle of the set Cedar Cliff went on an eight-point streak for a 20-6 lead, and the rest of the set was history.
From that point on, it became apparent that it was going to be tough for Mifflin County to score against Cedar Cliff's tough defense. One reason in particular for that was Cedar Cliff's tall blockers.
"We're super undersized, so people are going against way bigger blockers and having to try to alter the ball around them or try to hit through them, and that doesn't work all the time," Kern said.
But despite being outsized, Mifflin County still worked the ball around as the girls tried to find an angle from which to bypass Cedar Cliff's tall defenders. All the girls, especially Mifflin County's Kaitlyn Dreese, consistently set the ball for attempted kills, but Cedar Cliff's tall blockers proved too much and many of these would be kills were deflected.
In terms of Mifflin County's own blocking, Kern thinks that was one area in which the team can improve.
"When it comes to us blocking, there needs to be improvement on foot work, timing and where they're actually blocking," Kern said. "A lot of times our blockers are going up, and the ball's going right by them. They're just misreading the ball. And hopefully it will click as the season goes on."
But even though Kern sees room for improvement, he was still pleased with the girl's performance overall.
One area in particular where Kern was pleased was in his team's scoring in the third set. The Huskies lost the set 20-14, but it was the team's best scoring set, and Kern thought that was partially because the girls handled the ball better than in the other two sets, which allowed them to get into more of a rhythm.
"I think we executed our pass better. If we put the ball back over the net, there's a chance that we can get into our rhythm a little bit more, and that's what happened," Kern said.
As the season progresses, Kern looks for his team to be more aggressive.
"I think we played fairly scrappy, which is a plus, but I think we're going to have to get scrappier. We're just going to have to react to the ball a little quicker," he said.
But for now, Kern is both finding the positives in the match, and seeing where it can lead the team in the future.
"I don't think it was a bad opening night," Kern said. "Cedar Cliff's a good team, so at least the girls know where we stand and what we need to do to get better."