BANGS — The Bangs Lady Dragons demonstrated their desire to improve is more than just lip service as they swept the Veribest Lady Falcons in the opening volleyball match of the season for both teams here Tuesday.
Bangs began the second season of the Adrian Welch era with a 25-20, 25-23, 25-15 victory as the Lady Dragons are looking improve on their 6-15 overall mark and third-place district finish from a season ago.
The Lady Dragons’ preseason motivation has centered around “earning” their way into the playoffs. Being a member of the three-team District 7-2A, Bangs is guaranteed a playoff berth no matter how its regular season fares. This season, however, the Lady Dragons want to prove they belong in the playoff field and are not advancing simply by default.
Tuesday’s season-opening performance should certainly serve notice to the Lady Dragons’ upcoming opponents.
“This was very important for our confidence,” Welch said. “I’m extremely proud of them for the way they played tonight and I’m proud of the dedication they’ve shown for the sport. We played with a lot of hustle and intensity tonight. Last year we had intensity, but it was more of a learning intensity. Tonight the intensity was about wanting to win.”
The Lady Dragons overcame a huge obstacle that plagued them last season as their ability to bounce back from a shaky start in the second game and rally for a two-point win swung the momentum of the entire match. Bangs trailed 13-7 before rallying for the 25-23 victory.
“Last year our biggest problem was in the second game,” Welch said. “It was just a mental letdown for us, and this was a great confidence builder. As a coach, you always like to see your team push when they’re losing and turn it into a win.”
Still trailing 19-17, a Veribest unforced error allowed Bangs to close within a point, then Shiloh Morris evened the game at 19-all on a kill.
Veribest regained a brief 20-19 edge, but the Lady Dragons grabbed their first lead, 21-20, when the Lady Falcons were called for a lift call at the net.
Veribest again drew even, but another miscue let Bangs forge back in front, 22-21. A spike from Andrea Evers gave Bangs a 23-21 cushion, while Julia Fincher’s push increased the Lady Dragon edge to 24-22. Bangs then sealed the victory when Veribest’s Alicia Carroll hit her spike into the net.
In the final game, Fincher’s spike pulled Bangs even at 3-all and started a run of five straight points that gave the Lady Dragons a lead they would never relinquish. Fincher added a kill and Morris chipped in with a spike the Lady Falcons couldn’t handle as the lead grew to 7-3.
Leading 8-5, Bangs reeled off 11 of the next 13 points to boost its advantage to 19-7. Sarah Bartek contributed three spikes that resulted in points during the Lady Dragons’ run, while the other eight came at the expense of Veribest unforced errors.
The Lady Dragons’ lead peaked at 14 points, 23-9, on a block by Jacklyn McKee. After a brief Lady Falcon rally, Fincher secured the win with a punishing spike.
“It was awesome for us to beat a team like we did in the third game,” Welch said. “That’s something we never did last year.”
In the first game, Bangs scored five of the opening six points and never looked back. Bartek, Fincher and McKee all got into the mix early with scoring spikes.
After seeing its lead dwindle to 7-6, Bangs scored five straight points coming out of a time out to increase the lead to 12-6.
Veribest never got within four points the rest of the opener and a spike from Evers ended the game.
“We really needed that first game tonight to get our confidence going for the rest of the match,” Welch said.
Bangs (1-0) will attempt to keep its early momentum going as the Lady Dragons take part in the Albany tournament beginning Thursday.