The bonding, the adapting to a new coach, the adjustment for many to their first year of varsity volleyball.
It all took time for that to fall into place during a learn-by-trial season a year ago for the McCutcheon Mavericks.
Once things clicked, the rewards were tremendous: victories, friendships, trust and a sectional title.
This year, McCutcheon wanted to make sure it hit the ground running.
With six seniors, there simply isn’t time for another half season of lessons.
McCutcheon’s Alexis Humphrey, left, and Dailey Vanderkolk try to block a shot during their match against Central Catholic Tuesday, August 19, 2014, at CC in Lafayette. McCutcheon won 3-1
After shaking off a rusty first two sets, the Mavericks started 2014 on the right foot in their season opener, defeating Class A No. 2 Central Catholic 25-23, 22-25, 25-19, 25-18 at McHale Gymnasium.
“It’s always important (to start well), but this year it is even more important because for a lot of us, it will be our last time on a volleyball court,” said senior Katee Kurtz, whose nine straight service points in the first set helped the Mavericks eke out a two-point victory. “We want to take each one to heart and do our best.”
Everything seems to be running smoother this time around, second-year coach Sara Sutter said.
The Mavericks got big nights from the reliable duo of Jade Humphrey, who matched CC’s Cameron Onken with a match-high 11 kills, and Sydney Tracer. Kurtz served three aces.
“Coming into this, everyone was so excited and we’ve been practicing. We were ready to hit the ground running,” said Tracer, who nearly collected a triple-double with 10 kills, eight digs and 21 assists. “Today was a wake-up call that we still have some things to work on in practice, but I know my team will progress.
“What we did tonight, we weren’t impressed because we know we can still do better.”
Even when McCutcheon hit the postseason a nearly finished product, the Mavericks were forced to play without athletic middle Kiana Fields in the sectional due to a team rules violation. Asked to step up, Dailey Vanderkolk flourished in the postseason, a trend that continued Tuesday night.
Vanderkolk hit .333 and served two aces while stuffing four shots.
“The biggest thing this year is that I don’t feel like we have to go backwards; we can always go forward,” Sutter said. “It’s nice this year that we can do more competitive things because we had so many return. It feels a lot better this year.”
Central Catholic, playing its second match in as many nights, fell against its county rival. But coach Brad McCarter also saw positives from a group of inexperienced players.
One of those was senior Megan Haan, who gave up volleyball a year ago. She asked to make a return to the court over the summer, and against one of the stronger teams on the CC schedule, she served three aces.
Emily Burks had 10 kills, Lindsey Powers contributed 11 digs and Belle Kendrick and Sammy Bonner, both setting for the varsity for the first time, combined for 22 assists for CC (1-1).
“There’s a lot of positives to take away. McCutcheon is a very good group,” McCarter said. “It was their first match, so we knew they were going to get stronger as they fought their way through. We’ll get there, but I was pleased with our second night out.”