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Host of youth debut for Lady Rebels

Host of youth debut for Lady Rebels
Host of youth debut for Lady Rebels
Sabra Walker prepares to serve in the opening match of the year for South Central. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Nerves and anxiety is expected when athletes hit the floor for the first match of any new year.
The butterflies were evident in South Central’s volleyball opener Monday when the Lady Rebels hosted Clarksville. Some of the rough play was to be expected from the Lady Rebels, who took the court with just two players with any varsity experience.
Clarksville cruised through the first two games but had to fight off numerous points in the finale to defeat South Central, 25-10, 25-9, 25-23.
‘We’ve got such a young team, I knew the nerves were going to be a factor,’ South Central coach Patty Shaffer said. ‘We only have eight eligible right now, and four were freshmen and two of the sophomores were first year players. So, six of eight had never played a varsity match.’
The lone players with varsity experience ‘ senior Samantha Turner and sophomore Haley Shaffer ‘ have been turned to as leaders. Shaffer landed the first kill of the season for the Lady Rebels. An ace by Issabelle Temple gave the home team an early 2-1 lead, but long runs by Clarksville later in the game became an issue.
At one point, the Lady Generals reeled off nine consecutive points that included three Ali Sparkman aces.
‘It’s a lot to ask them to play varsity ball this quick,’ Shaffer said of the freshmen. ‘They came out for warm-up sweating of nerves and like they’ve never seen a court before.’
Clarksville began game two with six consecutive points, pinning South Central deep into a hole. The Lady Rebels rallied back when one of the freshmen, Sabra Walker, delivered a kill. She followed that with back-to-back aces to cut the deficit to 6-4.
The visitors later outscored South Central 18-5 to take game two.
‘I was disappointed in their enthusiasm,’ Shaffer said. ‘I was pushing them to get up and celebrate each point they get. Hopefully, it will come as they get comfortable.’
Game three was much tighter. Neither team could muster much of a sizable advantage. Kills by sophomore Kelsey Eckart led to South Central knotting the match at 13.
After trading points, Clarksville won four consecutive to go up 18-14. The Lady Rebels’ young ‘ins fought back, taking advantage of Clarksville miscues to win the next four points.
Later in the game, Haley Shaffer heated up behind the service line, burning the Lady Generals for three aces in a row. The serves put her team up 22-20. Clarksville, out of a time-out, rallied back to take the win. Aces made up half of the final six winners.
‘(Haley) has a nice serve if she can become more consistent with it,’ Patty Shaffer said. ‘She gets a lot of aces if she has the consistence. Sabra Walker is another that is a really good, consistent server.’
The veteran coach said she looks forward to seeing the girls grow as the season goes on but realizes patience is key.
‘I’m expecting big things from our freshmen,’ she said. ‘We knew they were good at the eighth-grade level last year, but it is a lot to ask right now. It’ll take patience.’
Chemistry thus far has been a plus for the Lady Rebels. Shaffer said she isn’t dealing with attitudes or seeing any quitters on the team.
‘What will get us through this season is great kids as they develop,’ Shaffer said. ‘They won’t hang their heads, which is a good asset. They all run together in the evenings, and the consistent thing will be them getting along.’
The Lady Rebels will return to action Tuesday when they host Southern Athletic Conference rival Lanesville.