Learning To Fly
North Dorchester building a winner
SHILOH — For North Dorchester High head volleyball coach Carol Hubbard, the object has always been to compete and win, not just field a team.
To compete, there first must be a team, and in the fall of 2014, North Dorchester added volleyball to its athletic roster with Hubbard at the helm.
Hubbard said while North Dorchester faces a challenge being one of the Bayside Conference’s smallest schools, it doesn’t mean the Eagles can’t compete at a high level.
She pointed just up the road to Colonel Richardson, a Class 1A school of similar size with a decorated athletic histor y.
“You look at Colonel Richardson, and they have very strong teams, from softball and baseball, to track and volleyball,” Hubbard said. “They excel in the Bayside and at the state level. That is something we can do here.”
In 2014, Hubbard began construction of North Dorchester’s volleyball team. Like any first-year program, the team struggled early, losing its first 13 matches, and not winning a set until its 13th match.
While winning a set was a small step forward, the Eagles used that progress their next game, when it earned a 3-2 victory over a Pocomoke team that reached the 1A East Region championship a year later.
The Eagles finished the year 1-15, but Hubbard liked what she saw.
“We just needed to build confidence,” she said. “We can’t be intimidated by these other schools. If we have the confidence, the points and wins will follow.”
Last year, North Dorchester had three victories, including a 3-0 win over 2A Wicomico. The Eagles nearly won at Pocomoke in the regular season, falling 3-2, and later lost to the Warriors 3-1 in the playoffs.
Hubbard said while the season may have shown minimal progress in the standings, she saw the team that was competing in each match.
“We were not an easy game for anyone,” Hubbard said. “The girls competed for each point. A player like Brooke Harding, who is a returning player, has been with the program since the beginning, and she has been a great leader. She has worked extremely hard and really helped drive the team forward. They played very well as a team and gave us high hopes for 2016.”
The high hopes turned into a struggle in this season’s opener against Colonel Richardson, which took a 2-0 lead.
North Dorchester rallied, putting together a tough 25-23 thirdset win, evening the match with a 25-16 fourth-set victory, before completing the comeback with a 15-13 triumph in the fifth.
“It was huge,” Hubbard said. “It showed the girls what they can do. Colonel is a very good team. But opening night showed the girls we are good team, too.”
Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Snow Hill moved North Dorchester’s record to 2-2. Only twice have the Eagles scored less than 20 points in the first four sets this season.
When the team took the court Sept. 15 against Parkside, the Rams size advantage was easily recognized by Hubbard.
“We walked out there, the Parkside front line had four or five inches on many of our girls,” Hubbard said. “We knew it would be a challenge.”
North Dorchester again fell into an 0-2 hole, and again pulled even before falling in fifth set.
The match was even at 8-8 in the fifth, before Parkside went on a 7-3 run, with Sarah Dabipi’s three kills down the stretch helping seal the win.
Myasia Jones led the Eagles with seven kills and four blocks. Jenna Usilton recorded a team-high six aces, with Georgie Turner adding five aces and Savanna Nossick scoring four aces.
“I’m really proud of them for not giving up tonight,” Hubbard said. “That has been a thing, not just for volleyball but for a lot of the sports here at North Dorchester; when we get down, we have a hard time getting back up. I’m very proud of the way they got back up, played with a lot of heart and kept their poise.
“They have not given up on any play, or any match we have been in this year,” she added. “If we can keep that positive attitude and keep playing with that heart, and keep playing up to the level they are capable of playing, we are going to end up with a winning season.”
In the first set, the Eagles did not let the Rams’ height intimidate them by jumping to a 15-7. Usilton had a stretch of four aces in a sixpoint run. Jones added a big block on a spike attempt by Dabipi.
The Rams recovered to win the set, 25-23, with Dabipi adding four kills and three blocks in the set.
Though they fell in the first set, Hubbard said the Eagles gained confidence, including setter Leann Asplen, who was giving up five or six inches on front line.
“When she saw what she was up against, she turned to me and said, ‘What am I going to do against them?,’” Hubbard said. “But in the very first set, Leann had a tap over her for a point and that gave Leann a lot of confidence. Leann played big today. I’m proud of how she competed.”
After Parkside took the second set 25-15, the Eagles started the third set on a 5-1 run. Though the Rams tied, or got within one point on four occasions, North Dorchester pulled away for a 25-17 win.
Four different Eagles had aces in the set, and Jones added two more kills.
“Myasia played outstanding,” Hubbard said. “She is our tallest player, and had several key blocks and kills to swing momentum our way.
“We got a lot of good servers I can count on,” she added. “Jenna had another outstanding game. She led the team in aces tonight, and does a really great job of controlling the other team’s ser ve. We have ver y consistent ser ving.”
The fourth set was tied 9-9 before North Dorchester pulled ahead with three-stretch points for a 12-9 lead. Parkside pulled within 19-17, but Karlie Allen’s spike spurred the Eagles to a decisive 6-1 run that forced a fifth set.
“Starting out we were really raw, and weren’t real sure what we were doing, but they have come so far in such a short period of time,” Hubbard said. “To be able to go five games and win against Colonel, go four games against James M. Bennett, and come back against Parkside and go five games is a testament to the hard work these girls have put in.”
North Dorchester’s Kathryn Allen leaps and uses the left hand to lift the ball by Parkside’s front line for a point.
North Dorchester’s Jenna Usilton controls a serve against Parkside Thursday, Sept. 15.