Originally Published: September 7, 2016 12:35 a.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY — Bradshaw Mountain High’s volleyball team may not be unbeaten anymore here in the early stages of the 2016 season. But what’s becoming clear is that the hard-working Bears will fight until the bitter end of their matches this fall.
BMHS succumbed to Goodyear Estrella Foothills in five close sets on Tuesday night, Sept. 6, at Gary Kunow Gym, 18-25, 28-26, 20-25, 25-16, 9-15, dropping the Bears’ record to 3-1 overall.
“We all wanted to keep our [three-match] winning streak going, and I think our momentum and our positive energy kind of turned into frustration towards ourselves [toward the end of the match],” Bears setter Saylor Ford said. “We kind of got a little upset with ourselves.”
In this 4A Conference clash, Bradshaw was led offensively by senior Kat Brannan, who registered eight kills. Setter Randee Clifford followed with six kills, Jordyn Moser and Sydney Rittershaus had five, and Brooklyn O’Connor notched four. Clifford dished 16 assists and Ford recorded 11 helpers.
Ford and Reillie Smith had three service aces each. Mailani Mannel had two.
Defensively, Mannel tallied 15 digs. Brannan and Smith followed with 11 apiece. Clifford, Kaylee Kriwer and Rittershaus each had a solo block.
Bradshaw Mountain lost to a Estrella Foothills squad that improved to 2-1 overall. The Wolves qualified for the Division III state tournament in 2015 and moved up to 4A in the off-season.
On Tuesday, Bradshaw coach Natali Sobczak said that she was pleased with her team’s effort, but was disappointed about how the end of the match played out.
“There was just like a comedy of errors,” the coach added. “It started out with a service error and then there was just miscommunications or putting balls out – they couldn’t find the court.”
In the fifth and decisive set, Bradshaw and Estrella were tied at 8-8 before the Wolves polished off the game on a 7-1 run. It was a combination of Estrella capitalizing on its own solid hitting and on some Bradshaw miscues.
“It’s good to win, but with losing comes humbleness, and it pushes you to work harder the next game,” Ford said. “We learned a lot from this game in that we’ll work a lot harder in practice.”
Added O’Connor, “It was really just our own mistakes, and we weren’t really staying as focused [in the fifth game]. We just need to be more encouraging of each other.”
Estrella Foothills led the match 2-1, and yet couldn’t finish off the pesky Bears as quickly as it would have liked.
Wolves coach Jennifer Gonzales said she graduated seven seniors in the offseason. She has seven seniors again in 2016, but her team hasn’t played a lot of matches together.
Gonzales has seven new girls and two transfers on her 11-player roster. One of the Wolves’ struggles on Tuesday was that they committed service errors at inopportune times.
“We practice serving every day, and I don’t know what it is about our serving, but we dig ourselves a hole,” the coach said. “I’m literally looking at the bench to see who can get the serve in. …We’re jelling better than we did our first match. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Next up, the Bears will travel to Greenway High in Phoenix for the Ceil Billings Tournament. They will try to use Tuesday’s tough setback as motivation to improve with a mostly green group that includes five sophomores and two freshmen on an 11-player roster.
“Lessons are to be learned and growth spurts are to be had,” Sobczak said. “This was a hard lesson. It’s going to be a work in progress. We need to stay focused.”
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) will release its initial 4A power-point rankings for volleyball on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Bradshaw Mountain didn’t make the playoffs last season.
“We’re doing a lot better than last year [at this time],” Ford said. “We all get along really well. We’re all super close. We’ve known each other for years. That really helps a lot to how we play with each other on the court.”