LEON, KANSAS – Bluestem volleyball coach Sheri Hatfield has the challenge of coaching a fairly young group in 2020.
That task for Hatfield is made easier because she has a Division I caliber player in senior Torrance Lovesee. During Tuesday’s dual sweep of the Central-Burden Raiders at the Lion’s Den, whenever the hosts were down and needed to make a run or simply score a crucial point, Lovesee was often there to deliver.
The Lions won the opening best-of-three match in straight sets: 25-22, 25-23. They then took the best-of-five second match, also in straight sets: 25-23, 25-21, 25-19.
It was a sweep, but it was not an easy one to accomplish. Bluestem trailed by five or more points in four of the five sets that were played. They often were plagued by serving errors and other miscues. But in all of the sets, they found a way to close them with superb execution.
"I think we’ve got some players who have the capacity to finish when they need to finish," Hatfield said. "We give up points that we’re not really expecting to give up sometimes, and that’s really just being young."
In the first match, Bluestem fell behind 5-0 and it took them some time to find success. Trailing 11-8, a 7-0 spurt gave the Lions a lead they would not relinquish. Central-Burden did battle back to a 16-16 tie but five straight points for Bluestem spurred them to the 25-22 victory.
The second set started even worse for the Lions, as Central-Burden blazed to a 14-5 lead forcing Hatfield to call timeout. Whatever she said, her team took it to heart as Bluestem outscored the Raiders 14-4 to lead 19-18. It would be nip and tuck from there, as the Lions took a 24-23 lead on a service error, and then scored the next point to capture the set and the match.
The start of the second match was more of the same. The Raiders took and held the lead most of the way in the first set. They seemed poised to take it, leading 21-17. But once again, the Lions responded. Leading the way was Lovesee, the UTEP commit. She and her teammates worked together better in setting up opportunities for kills at the net. Bluestem went on an 8-2 run to close out the set and win 25-23.
"We made a couple of adjustments," Hatfield noted. "Between the first match and the second match we switched our middle and our outside which gave us a little bit more production on offense."
The Raiders had a tough time recovering from that collapse and the Lions opened the second set with a 9-2 spurt. To the credit of the visitors, they were capable of coming back as well. Central-Burden took a 20-18 lead, but once again, Lovesee came up with a couple of powerful kills and the Lions finished the set with a 7-1 flurry to win 25-21.
In the third set, it was yet another case of the Raiders establishing a lead but not being able to hold on to it. Trailing 17-14, the Lions kept their poise and were determined to finish the match with a sweep. A 10-1 run helped seal the deal as Bluestem took the third and final set, 25-19.
While a 2-0 start is what you want, Hatfield knows there is plenty of work ahead for her team.
"We still need to work on our confidence in our positions, and we have some defensive responsibilities we still need to shore up, but considering how young we are, that’s not surprising."