Learn­ing To Fly

North Dorch­ester build­ing a win­ner

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com

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.”

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

North Dorch­ester’s Kathryn Allen leaps and uses the left hand to lift the ball by Park­side’s front line for a point.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

North Dorch­ester’s Jenna Usil­ton con­trols a serve against Park­side Thurs­day, Sept. 15.

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