Cleveland’s volleyball team continued to roll, staying unbeaten with a 3-1 (25-11, 17-25, 25-21, 25-16) victory over Garner on Thursday night in a non-conference match.
The 3A Rams (3-0) are playing with a revamped lineup after losing several key players from last year’s team. But they are winning while improving, a task the 4A Trojans (0-3) haven’t been able to accomplish yet.
“We’ve been building a good defense,” Cleveland captain and hitter Walli Driggers said. “Our back row is all new, so we’ve had to work as a team to make sure everyone clicks and plays together well.”
Garner rallied to take a 19-18 lead in the third set after the teams split the first two. But a Driggers kill started a 5-0 Cleveland run — with Driggers serving — as the Rams took control. Driggers wrapped up the 25-21 win with a dink, her seventh kill of the set.
They said it
“I am probably the most positive 0-3 coach around,” Trojans coach Jason Boyette said. “What we’ve been talking about since Aug. 1 is getting better every day. We played Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and we’ve been better all three days.”
Three who mattered
Driggers: She was terrific in the crucial third set, stepping up her offensive game with the seven kills. “A lot of it had to do with how we were setting up the ball a lot more,” Driggers said. “Our offense really improved during that set.”
Shaylynn Hall, Garner: She’s only a sophomore, but Hall was solid on offense and defense for the Trojans. “As soon as Shaylynn Hall goes in the game, we score,” Boyette said. “Whether it’s a block or she’s getting a kill – when she gets in the game, she scores.”
Taylor Hein, Cleveland: She came into the game as the Rams’ leading hitter, and the sophomore continues to impress with seven kills and three service winners against Garner.
Trojan defenders blocked three blocks during one play in the third set, with Hall and Kacie Meekhof blocking Hein for an 11-9 lead.
“That doesn’t happen many times, and that was good to see,” Boyette said. “The ones that we blocked out of bounds, at the end of the year, those are the ones that will land inbounds.”
That kind of defensive effort should pay dividends for the Trojans, who start two sophomores and a freshman.
“That’s what we’ve been working on,” Boyette said. “I know we’re tall, and I know we can jump. I tell my tall girls to touch as many as they can, and boy they hit a lot of balls.”
Bri Gross, libero, and Celeste Whiteaker, defensive specialist, Cleveland: If Gross and Whiteaker continue to play well on the back line, the Rams will be in most games.
“What I was concerned about was our defense because I didn’t have a libero or a defender,” Cleveland coach Shelley Johnston said. “I’m really proud of them because they’re sophomores playing on varsity and having to get those big hits.”
Out of bounds
Cleveland has three players on its roster with the first name Taylor: Hein, Taylor Thomas and Taylor Woods. What’s worse for Johnston is they’re all hitters.
“Most of the time, they know exactly who I’m talking to,” Johnston said. “I say, ‘Taylor,’ and they know who I’m talking to.”
Said Hein, “We just know. There’s no explanation. Or if we don’t know, we all look.”
Driggers is working on nicknames to separate the Taylors: “Taylor” for Hein, “Taylor T.” for Thomas and “Woods” for Woods.