SWAMPSCOTT — Tuesday’s match between the English and Swampscott volleyball teams showed how the two squads are at very different places in the early part of the season.
The Big Blue, 3-0 winners at Swampscott High Tuesday, are rolling along, building off of a strong 2016 season and looking for a tournament berth this fall. They’re well on their way with a 4-1 record through two weeks of play.
Things have not been as easy for the Bulldogs, who are still searching for their first win, but making progress every day toward building a competitive team.
At first, the Bulldogs really made it a match. Annika Laudermann’s kill made it 11-10 Swampscott, but English tied it at 11-11 on a serving error.
But then, Cassidy Ryan stepped up to serve, and the Big Blue went on a run that the Bulldogs couldn’t halt. Eight straight service points, including two aces, from Ryan gave Swampscott some breathing room at 20-11.
“I saw about 10 aces in serving and I saw her mixing up some good sets,” Swampscott coach Chip Emery said of Ryan. “She did a very good job at setting.”
English’s Andy Nhiv stopped the bleeding on an excellent diving dig that found floor on the other side of the net for a point. But despite the best efforts of Nhiv and teammates Ashley Dahlbeck and Sarah Abdelrahman, who were all diving across the hardwood to keep rallies alive, Swampscott closed out the set, 25-14.
The momentum from the late run carried over to set two, and Swampscott jumped out to an 8-0 lead behind seven service points (2 aces).
“I think for a lot of players, when a team gets a couple of points in a row, the players can kind of get in their own heads,” said English coach Mike Haddad. “When that happens, you start to see them making more mistakes than they would normally make. I think the biggest thing from tonight’s game was confidence. I think they were feeling good in the beginning, then the separation started to happen and we saw that confidence kind of fall through in the second set. In the third set, I saw them start to pick it back up again, but it was too little, too late.”
Laudermann added four service points to build a 15-1 lead. Alexa Winter came through with a kill at the net to end the set, a 25-6 win for Swampscott.
The Bulldogs picked it back up in the third, but Swampscott stayed in control for the most part. Ryan again gave the Big Blue a sizable lead at 6-0 early in the set, and added three more service points later. Mallory Kessler knocked one over that the Bulldogs couldn’t return to end the set with a 25-10 Big Blue win.
While the Bulldogs are still looking to get in the win column, Haddad’s seeing strides every day from his team.
“One of the things we talk about a lot is hustle. I like my players to play with their heads and their hearts, and one thing I always see from them is they play with heart,” he said. “Over our first games, even though they were losses, I saw improvements in the technical part of their games. I’m feeling optimistic about the rest of the season, we haven’t gotten that win yet, but I think it’s coming soon.”
He also highlighted the play of junior captain Nhiv.
“He’s been with me since last year, and he’s someone truly dedicated to the game, and every time he’s out there he gives 100 percent,” Haddad said. “He’s an absolute wonderful player who gives it his all every time.”
For Swampscott, Emery’s feeling good about where his team is at.
“Just about everyone played well today, the way we should be playing, communicating, moving, everyone is there to do the job or help out,” the coach said. “Right now, I’m able to use the whole team, which is great. Everyone has a place they’re plugged into.”