Shorthanded Lady Buffs turn back CCS

CCS sophomore Jennifer Schaap high to block a Melrose kill attempt during Thursday’s match at the CCS gym. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

Team chemistry can make or break success in any sport.

First-year Melrose volleyball coach Sonja Moyer said most of her players have been playing together since seventh or eighth grade. But with three players missing on Thursday, the Lady Buffs had to pull together to earn a 25-19, 25-15, 16-25, 25-17 win over Clovis Christian at the CCS gym.

“They are very confident in the way they play,” Moyer said of her players. “They have good chemistry together.”

The Lady Buffs (4-2) dominated the first two games, as they were quicker to the ball and rotated better on their defensive sets. But in the third game, they broke down.

CCS (4-3) extended a 14-12 lead in the third game with six straight points to put the game out of their reach.

“We got down on ourselves,” Melrose junior middle hitter Toni Burdine said. “If we’re not hyped up and having fun, we don’t play very well.”

Moyer said the lack of depth got to the Lady Buffs in the third game, but Melrose turned its play around in the fourth game to nail down the match.

The Lady Buffs erased a 5-2 deficit early in the fourth game with eight consecutive points. The Lady Eagles closed to 13-11, but Melrose responded with five straight points to keep CCS out of striking distance.

The Lady Eagles had to make major adjustments to their offense as well, coach Ceil Boatman said, noting they changed up their offense 30 minutes before game time.

Boatman said the team needed to enhance its aggressiveness on the offensive end, and she also moved junior Whitney Miller to setter, essentially running the offense through her.

“She ran the offense without any practice,” Boatman said. “And she just did an excellent job.”

Sophomore Jennifer Schaap led the Eagles with 12 kills and five blocks. Freshman Jocelyn Swann also came up with 12 digs to lead the Clovis Christian defense.

The shorthanded Lady Buffs put junior TaNeil Roberts, who normally plays outside hitter, into the middle while sophomore Lainey Widner went from defensive specialist into the middle.

For Clovis Christian, Boatman said the team’s loss came more from their youth and inexperience on the varsity stage. The Lady Eagles graduated six seniors from last season’s squad, including five starters.

“This team is young in terms of court play,” Boatman said. “To go from junior high to varsity is a huge jump.”