Shasta’s Zoe Lin said the Shasta volleyball team spent the better part of the past year learning how each other played on the court in an effort to return to the Northern Section Division III finals for the possibility of a three-peat. From tryouts to an Oregon camp to tournaments in Reno, the Wolves spent a ton of time getting to know each other on and off the court.
But when Courtney Oilar, the Wolves’ leading hitter, went down with a broken finger at an Anderson tournament two weeks ago, the group had to learn each other’s role all over without the senior hitter.
“Against Foothill (last week), we were still learning how to adapt to Courtney being gone,” Lin said. “It’s a pretty big loss and I didn’t (fully) realize how important she was. I knew she was very good.
“You really miss something once it’s gone and we’ve been working on filling that hole left (by her absence).”
After the 3-1 loss last week to Foothill in which the Wolves went through different lineups, Todd Taylor’s group seemed to find its groove in a 25-13, 25-16, 25-18 sweep of crosstown rival Enterprise on Tuesday at Manatowa Gymnasium.
That lineup has included junior Ella Rodriguez and sophomore Trinity Hudson stepping into more prominent hitting roles.
For a team that looked out of sorts at times against the Cougars, the Wolves (18-14, 2-3 Eastern Athletic League) were in sync most of the night, receiving the ball well from the home team, hitting to open spots in the Hornets’ defense and covering the Enterprise (4-13, 0-4) hitting lanes on defense.
That combination led to an offensive outburst that saw Hudson finish with 14 kills, Rodriguez add 12 and junior setter Britney Blomquist dish up 35 assists.
Blomquist said the emergence of Rodriguez and Hudson as go-to hitters helps the Wolves’ offense now and when Oilar returns.
“They both have really stepped it up and brought a new level to our offense,” Blomquist said, adding that when Oilar does return “Then we have multiple threats in our offense.”
After trailing early in the first set, the Wolves climbed back to knot the score at 6 as Blomquist found Rodriguez for one of her six first-set kills. On the ensuing serve, Blomquist gave the Wolves the lead, winning a 50/50 ball at the net over Enterprise hitter Emma Seitz. By the time Blomquist’s serve came around again, she’d dished out assists to Hudson, junior Emily Roberts and Hudson. On Blomquist’s serve, she recorded four aces and seven straight points as the Wolves pulled away for a 19-11 lead.
By the time she and Rodriguez hooked up again on set point, Blomquist had notched her 10th assist of the night.
Elo with a back row kill to end the match. Shasta wins in 3 – 25-13, 25-16, 25-18 https://t.co/nXawvvH3d1
“We’re really trying to communicate and make it work because Courtney was really strong in our offense,” she said. “But we are learning to adjust and talking with each other.”
The Enterprise defense didn’t do a particularly good job of setting up its hitter, while the Hornets also posted 25 hitting errors on the night to 16 kills overall.
“Defensively it comes down to discipline,” Hornets’ coach Ashley Cervantes said. “We’re having a hard time right now understanding and buying into the process of what I’m trying to teach them. It comes down to a player knowing ‘Oh, this is where I’m supposed to be or not be’ but also communication.”
The Wolves jumped out early in the second set, building a 12-4 lead as Blomquist found Lin, Rodriguez – four times – and Kam Collins for kills. The abundance of assists and kills all started with Lin and her back-row mates receiving and digging balls most of the night. Lin led the Wolves 18 digs.
“Zoe did a great job tonight,” Shasta coach Todd Taylor said, adding “her serving got us on a big run in that second set.”
Up 13-5, Lin went on a seven-serve run that gave the Wolves a 19-6 run after a Emily Roberts hitting error before the set went the visitor’s way with four hitting errors – two from each side – over the set’s last four points.
In the third set, seven different Shasta players tallied a kill, led by Hudson’s five, two by Lin, and one each from Roberts, Lin, Kayla Price and Rondi Elo, who’s smash closed out the match.
Abby Shoff led the Hornets with five kills, while Seitz added three and Kimberly Nickel and Madyson Lovett each had two.
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