Published: Sep 05, 2006 08:31 AM
Modified: Sep 05, 2006 08:59 AM
After losing to Roxboro Person High two nights earlier, Athens Drive High’s volleyball team wanted to make sure the loss was more of an abberation than a habit.
From the personalized cheers to the cartwheels during introductions, the Jaguars were eager to return to their winning ways against Northern Durham High on Thursday. And they didn’t need long to do so.
“They worked hard in practice and they knew they had to step it up,” said Athens coach Angela Corticchio, whose team swept Northern Durham 25-21, 25-15, 25-11. “It was an early loss and we knew we had to work forward from there.”
The start of the match was not as easy as the score portrays, though. Athens and Northern kept a steady scoring pace, staying within a point of each other for the majority of the game. Then, once the Jaguars took the first game, their momentum steamrolled.
Athens senior Ginny Bray, who was the Tri-Seven Conference Player of the Year last season, finished with six kills in the second game and went on a scoring streak in the middle of the third game.
“We really came together,” Bray said. “Before we were struggling, but in this game, our hitting, our passing, our defense — it all came together.”
Bray, who committed to William & Mary in the spring, has been leading the team in kills this season and Thursday’s game only helped her cause. She finished with 14 kills along with five blocks and two aces.
Fellow senior Caitlin Pardue also seemed to adhere to the Jaguars’ basic trends of the season as she recorded five kills and three aces. Pardue has the second-most kills on the team.
With Athens’ core group of starters back as seniors this year, the Jaguars likely would be a team led by upperclassmen, but that’s not the case.
“I think we’re a team of all leaders in a sense,” Pardue said. “But we all need someone to bring it all together and I think the seniors do that well.”
Corticchio rotates four sophomores as starters and said she plans to continue that philosophy throughout the year. In fact, sophomore Brigitte Richardson played the majority of the game as the libero, a player who can substitute for any of her teammates in the backcourt at any time during the game.
Richardson not only got a lot of game time, but provided a spark in Athens’ defense with a number of key digs throughout the game.
“Defense is always a big focus for us,” Corticchio said. “We have a really strong offense and our sophomores are really stepping up for being young players.”
The real test for Athens, whose record is now 5-1, will be against Apex High on Sept. 5. The game is the teams’ conference opener and with the Cougars and Jaguars considered the favorites to win the Tri-Eight, a win could set the tone for the rest of the league schedule.
Since Corticchio started coaching Athens four years ago, the program has made a complete turnaround. Last season, the Jaguars tied for the Tri-Seven Conference title — a feat they’ve accomplished by tie or by winning outright for the past three years.
Though Corticchio has changed the status of Athens Drive to a dominant volleyball school, there are some things she can’t take credit for: the team’s trademark cartwheels.
“That’s just them being them,” said Corticchio, laughing. “I don’t know where that came from.”
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