Not only did the Abilene Cowgirls have to face ranked opponents to open the 2020 volleyball season, those three teams had already been in action this season.
Abilene dropped its opening match to Top 10 ranked Smoky Valley to begin the Abilene Quad on Thursday. They finished the day going 1-2 after defeating NCKL foe Concordia in three sets before falling to a ranked TMP squad to end the evening.
The Cowgirls struggled all of last year against Concordia to open the season. They had troubles in the quad and then turned right around and had to play in The Jungle a week later. This year they get the win they wanted and now will host the Panthers on Tuesday.
“All three teams we played today are excellent teams,” Abilene head coach Jade Koch said. “Smoky Valley is ranked as they should be and TMP is at the top of Class 3A. We knew it was going to be tough today adding to the fact we hadn’t played yet and they have.”
Smoky Valley had played in a pre-season tourney prior to coming to Abilene and the Cowgirls were facing them right out of the chute. First game jitters probably got to the Cowgirls as they took on the Lady Vikings. Early in the opening set, Abilene senior outside hitter Reagan Ditto left due to injury. The Cowgirls were forced to insert two freshmen earlier than planned into the varsity line up.
Coach Koch called on Claira Dannifer and Callie Powell to face the fire of varsity play early against Smoky Valley.
“Claira did a really good job as she debuted against a ranked opponent,” Koch said. “And Callie helped us out in the middle. There are a lot of things to work on but I thought their first night being on the varsity court was so much different than anything they are used toand they did a really great job for us.”
Abilene dropped both sets to Smoky Valley 16-25, 21-25.
Much like last season, the Cowgirls were a little off sync to open the season. Consistency in passing and sporadic play along the back line plagued the Cowgirls early in the opening set.
Next the Cowgirls met up NCKL foe Concordia; a team Abilene could not beat a year ago even though they went on to win the league title. Concordia returns several of their top players from last season. Abilene took the first set of a tight battle 25-20.
The second set went to the Lady Panthers by the same 25-20 score with the Cowgirls bouncing back for a 25-21 match win.
“I think the girls were a little bit more motivated and had a bit more drive because we couldn’t get that accomplished last year,” Koch said. “Last year we had all that talent and just weren’t in sync at the beginning and we played them early.”
In the final match of the night against Thomas Moore Prep the Cowgirls met up with a team of really gifted athletes. There is a reason TMP is at the top of its class.
“We were so focused on their power hitter Emilee Lane that we took some net play for granted,” coach Koch said. “Especially from their setter, Kassidi Yost. How many times did she get a dump on us? She probably had more kills than some of their big hitters.”
The Lady Trojans also found an empty zone in the Cowgirl defense to place kill shots. Abilene struggled to adjust the defense as TMP took both sets 25-22, 25-18.
“I was a little disappointed that we didn’t adjust to TMP’s scoring. We didn’t do a very good job defensively,” Koch said. “We will definitely work on that in practice and we will defend the setter better. We also had five missed serves against them. You can not give a really good team like them that many free balls.
“Overall, I feel really good about the day because I saw a lot of really great things even though 1-2 doesn’t sound great,” she said. “Every team here is a solid program and I feel like there is a lot of potential on our team and it’s early in the season and we have time to pick it up.”
Abilene plays Concordia at home Tuesday and then heads to Southeast of Saline on Saturday.
Contact Ron Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org.