‘Road’ Raiders slogging through tough streak

Posted on September 30, 2020 by STUART CAMP

Regan Rudzki (left) and Abbey Nebarez team up on the block against Pensacola Catholic Monday. (Photo by Stuart Camp)

Except their first game, the Lady Raiders volleyball team has spent a lot of time on the bus traveling to away games.

Coach Ryan Davenport admits that scheduling just fell that way. But they’re getting ready to settle in for a nice long home stand as the season – and the team – matures.

“We took what we could. It just happened with a stretch of away games. It’ll be nice to be back home,” he said.

In the last week, the Raiders, again, won one of three games. They fell to Gulf Breeze in three sets, used five sets to overcome the Pace Patriots, then lost to Pensacola Catholic.

The 2-4 team (2-1 in district play) is still on the upward swing this season.

Getting into the gym to recoup practice time and gain game-experience in such a short period vexes Davenport every day.

“We’re in a boat to go across the Atlantic (Ocean) but we have no oars, and we have to do it in two days,” he gave as an analogy to the season. “I feel like we’re absolutely scrambling trying to do all we can to get better in a short amount of time and with very little practice. So, it’s tough.”

Gulf Breeze and Catholic are prominent teams in the panhandle, so scoring well against them is prized. Combined, in those two matches, Navarre was outscored 150-91.

“Over the last two weeks, we’ve played four matches, and I think what’s been a monumental difference in our play is our block coverage,” said senior libero Sarah Shoffner. “It’s made all the difference. We’re not letting opponents have free reign of the court, and we’re getting in our zones and getting those digs.”

Following the Dolphin match Saturday morning, the coach noted improvements in the players awareness.

“Now they’re more aware about what going on the other side of the net and the things I’m asking them to do to adjust,” said. “Today, they realized that they missed some of those assignments.”

Monday night, the Raiders had the lead in each game against Catholic – as late as 14-13 in the third set – before a surge swept the momentum.

“Based on previous years, we scored more points on them (the Crusaders) this time than we have (previously). The girls know they can compete. We just need to get a little better.”

The box score was 25-20, 25-10, and 25-16.

Offensively, the Raiders struggled against a tall Crusader front line, managing just a 20.6 percent kill percentage with 18 attacking errors.

“They had a very big block,” senior hitter Aubrey Walls said, rebuffing the idea she was intimidated. “There’s really no reason for us to be scared, because we have hitters just as strong as they do. And we play against them every day in practice.”