E.A. Sports Today

Falcons learning on the fly

[corner-ad id=2]Donoho’s volleyball team responds to teachable moments — and there were plenty — in 3-1 win over Ohatchee

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – As the coach of perhaps the most consistently successful sports program at her school, Donoho volleyball coach Janice Slay thinks of herself first as a teacher.

Her team of eight players provided plenty of opportunity for the veteran coach to teach Thursday night.

The Falcons opened their season with a 3-1 victory over an improved Ohatchee team, 25-13, 23-25, 25-10, 25-21.

Their first lesson came after the Indians tied the match in set 2. There were two more refreshers when the Indians got a little too close for comfort in the fourth set. Each time, the Falcons came right back with positive results.

“Coaching is teaching and if you can’t be a teacher as a coach then your kids are just kind of left floundering,” Slay said. “My job as a coach is not to stand over here and look important, it’s to stand over here and coach and correct and make adjustments when we need to make adjustments.

“This is a really young group and they need some experience, they need some playing time and they need some (coaching). That’s my job. I can sit over here and do nothing, but it’s not going to help them.”

The Falcons, preseason ranked No. 3 in Class 1A, had a relatively easy time of it in the first set, pulling away with a 12-1 run midway through. Ohatchee drew confidence off a series of unforced Donoho errors in the second set and evened the match.

That prompted a simple, but effective message from the teacher before the next set.

“Clean up your mess,” Slay said. “A lot of the points we lost in that second game were stupid mistakes on our part and with eight players we can’t do that. We don’t have the luxury of being stupid on the court. We have to be tight. We have to be sharp. We have to know what we’re doing.”

The Falcons responded with several bursts of scoring in third set and Peyton Suco closing it out with one of her kills at the net. They erased an early 2-0 deficit in the fourth set with a 9-3 run that gave them control, but twice needed refreshers to “play your game” in the late going.

The first one produced two quick points to regain a seven-point lead and the last one came right before Suco closed it out with another kill at the net.

Suco had seven total kills in the match. Camille Fink had nine kills and four aces, including back-to-back aces early in the fourth. Kayla Wallace had eight kills and four aces. Madison Gaines had seven kills and Katie Brown set everybody up with 72 assists.

“The team is a work in progress with players in new positions, but we really worked well together; the chemistry we have might be a little shaky at times but we pull it right back up,” senior hitter Camryn Swain said. “We responded really well, a lot better than maybe last year, and came together.”

Ohatchee, meanwhile, got contributions from throughout its lineup. Courtney Poole had nine kills, three aces and 14 digs. Cheyenne McCarter had seven kills, 10 digs and 15 assists. Katie Echols had 13 digs. Jordyn Molock had 13 assists. Hannah Howell had 33 digs.

Even after falling behind in the fourth set, the Indians climbed back to within 9-7, 18-13 and 24-21.

“When we were tied all I told them was to just keep fighting,” Indians coach Rachel Pruitt said. “Our motto this year is ‘One step further.’ Every day we don’t want to go backwards, we want to move forward.

“I wanted to start (the schedule) off big to show them what we wanted to work on. They don’t see it as they’re playing, but showing them stats after the game they realize definitely what we need to work on.”

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