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Shelby County dropped its first match of the season Thursday, 25-14, 26-24, to visiting Whitfield Academy, but the loss didn’t disappoint Rockets Coach Felicia Pace.
She said her team proved in two games (including a scrimmage) that it could compete from start to finish.
“We haven’t gotten to capitalize with a win yet, but we’ve done everything we needed to do that,” Pace said.
In the first game, Shelby was down early, 20-12, which made it tough to mount a comeback. As a team with few experienced players, Shelby is learning on the court to play the game at the varsity level and play as a team. Anytime the players were talking it up, their energy and execution improved.
“Aggressiveness is something that we don’t lack,” Pace said. “We’re going to chase the ball down wherever it is.”
Defense, especially, was Shelby’s strong suit in the second game, when they led Whitfield or tied the game numerous times. The Rockets dug up Whitfield hits and made controlled passes to get an offense going.
“I think we picked up a lot more balls that game,” junior setter Caty Hawkins said. “We were passing better. They weren’t ready for it defensively when we tipped.”
Late in game two, Shelby had the lead after Ariana Jones’ ace, 23-21. Whitfield answered with a kill, then blocked Akia Jones’ spike. Hawkins made a save on a tough pass for a long hit that scored. But Whitfield made three quick points to put the game away.
“I really think they’ve got a really fast offense and right now our offense isn’t that fast so the transition to having to get a fast-paced defense is one edge they had over us,” Pace said. “I think we hit as well as they did, but being able to move across the net as fast as they did was something we had to chase.”