Aberdeen volleyball coach Janie Anderson-Robinson warned her team about North East before the Eagles played host to the Cecil County squad Friday.
"I told the kids when we had a practice Wednesday -- just be prepared to cover everything, block everything, do everything right, or we're gonna get killed." Although the Eagles (1-3) started out strong, they couldn't hold up against last year's Class 2A state runners-up. After a close first game, North East (3-0) had little trouble sweeping the match, 15-13, 15-5, 15-4.
It didn't help the Eagles to be without starter Melissa McLaughlin, away on a college visit, or to have another starter, Thina Coffey,barely mobile on a sprained ankle.
The Eagles did not serve well,pass well or move well together on the court.
"We weren't talking," said Connie Lawing, one of five seniors. "We have to communicate more, but it was hard without Melissa. We were trying to get used to others on the court."
The Eagles' problems started late in the first game. Leading 13-10, Aberdeen had three bad passes and a communication breakdown to help North East reel off the last five points.
"We gave up the last three points on small errors," said Beth Oates, a senior hitter.
"We have to start thinking about what we do before we do it. Sometimes we lose our concentration, and we don't adjust asquickly as we should."
The Eagles did have strong performances inthe first game, especially from Jenny Cohen, with two solo blocks; Coffey, with a deceptive floating serve; and junior Lakisha Green, with accurate back-row passing.
In the second game, the Eagles took a2-0 lead, but North East reeled off the next 12 points en route to winning the game. Five points came on poor Aberdeen passes. The Eaglesalso took an early lead in the final game, 4-0, but couldn't hold on. They didn't score again.
North East lapsed a little in the second game but came back strong to finish off the Eagles in the third game. All through the match, North East had excellent court coverage. Led by setter/hitters Diane Lehman and Cindy Slaughter, who have playedtogether since sixth grade, North East made few errors in its power-hitting offense.
Even though Cathy Farrell's squad was missing starter Jean Fortuno, North East played as if it were headed right back to the state final four.
North East had the edge in experience. Five starters returned from last year including Lehman, Slaughter and Fortuno, who played together on a U.S. Volleyball Association club team which narrowly missed the national championship tournament five years ago.
For Aberdeen, three starters return, Coffey, Oates and McLaughlin. Lawing, Cohen, Marika Krejci and Green also saw plenty of action on last year's varsity squad.
The Eagles, who jumped to Class3A, practically were out of contention for a regional playoff berth even before the season began. "With our schedule and us being 3A, we could go undefeated and not make regionals with the point system the way it is," said Anderson-Robinson.
Instead of gunning for a playoff spot, the Eagles have set their sights on picking up an upset or two in county league play. They have already lost to C. Milton Wright once, and the Eagles are hoping to avenge that in their second meeting Thursday.