In volleyball, it’s the hitter who makes the biggest impression as she locks her eyes on the ball that the setter has lofted 15 feet, leaps high to meet it in mid-air as she coils her body, brings her arm back like a sledgehammer and rockets the ball over the net in just the right spot, sending opposing players sprawling to the floor in a desperate and often vain attempt to keep it from hitting the hardwood. It’s the most exciting play in the sport, rightfully earning its violent moniker: kill.
But there are other less-heralded skills in volleyball that don’t show up in the box score but are just as vital to victory, one of which is passing. The hitter, of course, will never get the chance to spike the ball if it never reaches her. Heritage’s Ashleigh Reed was named Player of the Game for her passing skills, which contributed to one of the Patriots’ best passing games of the year in a 3-1 victory over Freedom last week.
“Our passing was phenomenal. Ashleigh Reed is our libero – she just did a great job,” said Heritage Coach Janet Hannigan, referring to the defensive specialist position. “Our team’s passing tonight was better than any other night. We just couldn’t get the balls to go down for us, to get the kills that we needed.”
The match, which was tight and hard-fought throughout, actually started out in Freedom’s favor: the Falcons won the first game 25-23 in a great comeback after having fallen behind 17-8. Heritage jumped to a 9-5 lead in the second game but then it was nip-and-tuck until the Patriots squeaked by 25-22. The third game was a similar seesaw squeaker with Heritage again winning 25-21. And ditto for the fourth and deciding game, won by Heritage 25-22 with a soft tap over the net by Maddie Hancock that the Falcons were unable to return.
“Our offense was lacking in the beginning, and we had to keep fighting,” said Hannigan. “Freedom played much better offensively this time than the last time we saw them. We were kind of struggling again mentally. But we were able to pull it off and fight through it. They figured out some nice shots to play on us. It took us a while to figure out defensively what to do. But once we did, we were all right.”
The win bumped the Patriots’ league record 5-2 and 16-6 overall. While those are strong marks, Hannigan said her team needs to work on preparing for and challenging the stronger teams like Liberty and Deer Valley after having played a lot of not-so-great teams in non-league tournaments earlier in the season.
“I don’t know that we played the higher-level teams that we needed to play,” she said. “When we have two teams that are really, really strong, it’s hard to gear up for those emotionally and mentally. But it’s something that we are working on. Liberty and Deer Valley definitely are two teams we have to try and beat this round.”
Liberty, which won its first encounter 3-0 on its home court, will be traveling to Heritage for the rematch on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m.