Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Originally Published: September 13, 2016 11:16 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY – Was it nerves? Intimidation? Gazing too far ahead?
The Bradshaw Mountain High volleyball team may not have a firm answer for losing in straight sets, 16-25, 14-25, 11-25, to Cave Creek Cactus Shadows in a 4A Conference clash Tuesday night, Sept. 13, at Gary Kunow Gym.
The Bears lost their second straight power-point match at home, dropping to 3-2 overall, while Cactus Shadows remained unbeaten at 5-0.
Bradshaw struggled offensively against a Falcons group that qualified for the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Division II state tournament in 2015.
On an off-night, the Bears received two kills apiece from Mailani Mannel, Kat Brannan, Rylee Bundrick and Kaylee Kriwer. Setter Randee Clifford registered two service aces and Reillie Smith had one. Defensively, Jordyn Moser tallied three digs.
“At the beginning, we definitely had a lot of energy and we were confident in ourselves,” Bradshaw freshman middle blocker Sydney Rittershaus said. “And as the game went on, we got too cautious and were unsure of the plays we know how to do. We just doubted ourselves, which we could’ve just went right back up.”
What made Tuesday’s result disheartening was the fact that Bradshaw had just finished the Greenway Ceil Billings Tournament Sept. 10, in Phoenix, with a 4-2 mark en route to winning its silver bracket.
The Bears succumbed to host Greenway, the defending Division III state champions, and narrowly fell to Raymond Kellis in three sets. However, the Bears rebounded nicely to defeat Glendale (twice), Maricopa and Phoenix Country Day.
Sobczak said Mannel and Moser “did an amazing job” at the tournament, as did setter Saylor Ford and middle blockers Rittershaus and Kriwer. Clifford provided a boost Saturday afternoon after returning to the starting lineup from ACT testing.
“I was proud of the entire group,” the coach added about the tournament performance.
She wasn’t altogether thrilled after Tuesday’s match, though, as Bradshaw took a step back in its progression. On Sept. 6, the Bears forced a tough Estrella Foothills squad to five games in a narrow 3-2 setback.
“I was thinking, ‘Who are these kids? Are these the kids who just won a silver [bracket] at the Greenway tournament against some really challenging and tough teams?’ ” Sobczak said. “Sometimes it’s just mental. No matter what you say or do, it’s not clicking. It was rough to watch.”
Perhaps the Bears were looking past Cactus Shadows and toward rival Prescott, which they will face in Grand Canyon Region play at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at the PHS Dome gym.
On Tuesday, Cactus Shadows seemed shaky in the early going, committing several unforced hitting and serving errors. Falcons sophomore outside hitter Kennedy Wright said Prescott Valley’s mile-high elevation didn’t help her team’s serves, “which were all over the place” until they adjusted.
And yet the Falcons quickly recovered, finding their groove behind the talented Wright and senior setter Maxie Livingston. Communication on the floor improved as the match progressed.
“Even though I graduated 10 seniors last year, I knew that I had a lot of talent behind them that deserved to be on varsity last year,” Cactus Shadows coach Zach Davis said of his current team. “So, this year, I knew they were going to be able to really compete, especially with the new 4A alignment.”
In Game 1, Bradshaw led 9-5 before Cactus Shadows went on a 6-2 run to tie it at 11-11. Later, knotted at 13-13, the Falcons pieced together a 12-3 spurt to ice the victory and effectively take control of the match.
“I just know to trust my players, because when they fail at one thing, they know they can pick it up in something else,” Davis added. “And, obviously, they’re a strong hitting team and a strong attacking team. If they’re having a bad serving day, as long as we can pass right, we can hit well.”
As for the Bears, Rittershaus said she and her teammates will improve with time, effort and energy.
“We need to up our mental game,” she added. “We need to be confident in ourselves and know that we can actually win. From last weekend to now, we just weren’t as confident and the energy wasn’t there.”
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2039, or 928-642-7865.