Published: Sep 12, 2006 08:54 AM
Modified: Sep 12, 2006 08:54 AM
Being the new kid in school is never easy. Being the new school in town can be tough.
But being the new team in a conference of volleyball powerhouses seems even harder.
And the Panther Creek High volleyball team has already discovered the challenge of the Tri-Eight Conference.
The Catamounts lost 25-11, 25-18, 25-20 to Green Hope High on Thursday Â— just two days after falling to Fuquay-Varina High in their conference opener.
Panther Creek coach Mark Carlsen is the first to guide the schoolÂ’s volleyball program, and though his debut hasnÂ’t produced the record he had hoped, itÂ’s hard to ask for more given the hurdles his team has had to overcome.
Â“I already know our strengths and weaknesses for the whole season,Â” Carlsen said. Â“WeÂ’re doing well on defense, but offensively, itÂ’s hard. Once we get coordination, hopefully next year, weÂ’ll be much better off.Â”
With only freshmen and sophomores attending the school this year, the physical strength and game experience isnÂ’t up to speed with the other schools in the conference. By comparison, half of Green HopeÂ’s players are juniors or seniors and only one player is a freshman.
Â“ItÂ’s not really like a real high school,Â” sophomore Becky Grzesik said. Â“I was at the Green Hope annex last year, and itÂ’s kind of like middle school all over again.Â”
While the Catamounts, whose record is 1-2 this season, have a blank history book, their competitors have at least four years experience in the conference and have made their strength known Â— in regular and postseasons. Last year, Green Hope (7-0) tied Athens Drive High for first place in the conference and, with Apex High, the conference had three teams make it to at least the second round of the NCHSAA 4-A Tournament.
Carlsen and the Catamounts have the odds stacked against them this year, no doubt. But despite their record, Carlsen is adamant about maintaining the teamÂ’s focus. ThursdayÂ’s game seemed to be the first time the team could unanimously agree that its concentration just was not there.
Â“We felt a lot more in sync in our last game (against Fuquay) than we were against Green Hope,Â” Panther CreekÂ’s Kayla Walker said. Â“We just werenÂ’t as focused.Â”
After losing by a 14-point margin in the first game of the Green Hope match, Panther Creek regrouped and finished within six points of the Falcons in the second game. But the first two games seemed to take a toll on the Catamounts and they encountered yet another hurdle to overcome.
Â“This was the first time I saw them get discouraged,Â” Carlsen said. Â“All I could do was give them instructions of what to do and what not to do. They choose which ones to listen to, but itÂ’s up to them to get themselves out of the game.Â”
As his team trailed the Falcons by eight points near the end of the final game, Carlsen called a timeout. The players huddled around him, hanging their heads with disappointment, but listening intently.
CarlsenÂ’s tactic helped. Panther Creek quickly put up five points and, though Green Hope held on to win the game and the match, the Catamounts left encouraged.
Â“Our first games were a lot better,Â” Grzesik said. Â“We can keep up with the other teams, but sometimes we get discouraged. Usually we can pull out of it, though.Â”
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