Despite a few signs that some kinks are still being worked out, the Bearettes dominated McMinn County 25-13, 25-13, 25-15 to open the 2011 season.
“We lost three very good players in (setter) Allie Bynum, (outside hitter) Rebecca Garrett and (libero) Alison Hayes. They will be hard to replace,” declared Bradley head coach Christie McElhaney. “However, the rest of our players were sophomores and freshmen last year and we have some good young players who have come in and shown great improvement.”
“We are still having a little trouble getting into a rhythm, and we had too many missed opportunities, but I’m happy with the win and the way we looked at times,” the coach commented.
After the Lady Cherokees scored two of the match’s first three points, junior Kayla Arp served up seven straight winners to push the hosts into the lead for good.
Sophomore Brooke Copeland helped out with a pair of aces in five service points in the opening game for the 12-point win.
McMinn once again scored the first point in Game 2, but Arp reeled off five straight and the Bearettes never looked back. A four-point run from junior Breanna Isham midway through the game and senior Kayla Rymer finishing off with three straight winners made the second outcome the same as the first.
Bradley never trailed in the final game as Arp opened with back-to-back aces, and after a kill by Copeland and a dink from sophomore Rebecca Reuter the rout was on.
The girls from Athens were able to pull within 7-4 but freshman Chanler Grady served up six straight winners and after a change of possession Isham ran off four more to push the advantage to 19-5.
The Lady Cherokees did score 10 of the next 14 points but the damage was done and the 10-point win sealed the season-opening victory for the home team.
Ard had a strong all-around outing with a half dozen assists, five aces in 14 service points, five digs, a pair of kills and a block.
Copeland slammed down eight kills, had a trio of digs and blocked a shot, while Reuter added four kills, a dig and a block.
Rymer helped out with seven digs, four aces, three kills and an assist, while Emily Wilson dug out a half dozen shots.
Senior Monica Hammond had a trio of kills, one dig and 1 1/2 blocks, with Grady handing out five assists in her first high school match.
“Grady is the only freshman on the varsity and as a setter she has a lot of responsibility,” explained coach McElhaney. “She is getting used to her hitters. Her and Kayla Arp will be sharing the setting duties this season.”
The pair has a wide variety of hitters to chose from, including the 6-foot-2 “twin towers” of Copeland and Reuter, as well as Hammond and Rymer among others.
“Our front line is our strong point,” McElhaney remarked. “We’re tall, but a little slow, but we’re getting there.”
Isham and Wilson are vying for the libero (defensive specialist) position, while juniors Brianna Howard, Kaitlyn Hickman, Jordan Campbell and senior Whitney Towl, who missed the last two seasons with an ankle injury, are also seeing action on the back line. Sophomore Lyndsey Davis is also battling for playing time on the varsity.
“We did well in the summer camps and the jamboree,” McElhaney related. “We beat teams like Ooltewah, Red Bank, Cookeville, Dobyns Bennett. Our only losses came against Walker Valley and Soddy-Daisy.”
“We’re being aggressive on offense, but we are still learning our defense,” the coach assessed. “We haven’t hit our stride yet, but we’re getting there.”
Bradley will return to the court Thursday evening with a trip across town to face archrival Cleveland. The varsity will play at 6:15, preceded by the junior varsity and freshman matches.
n The Bearettes won the freshman match Tuesday by a 25-5, 25-13 tally, while McMinn captured the JV win 21-25, 25-18 and 15-13.