ABILENE — There are very few chores harder than playing up a classification, let alone two, in a high school season opener. But again that challenge awaited the Brownwood Lady Lions as they opened the 2014 volleyball campaign Tuesday.
In the first two matches of head coach Lorrie Beelby’s second season, the Lady Lions dropped a pair of straight-set decisions to the Class 6A Abilene High Lady Eagles and the Class 5A Abilene Lady Cooper Lady Coogs at Cooper High School.
Brownwood started with a 25-11, 25-18, 25-13 loss to Abilene High, then stumbled 25-12, 25-12, 25-13 against Abilene Cooper.
“We still look really sloppy,” Beelby said. “I felt like we were trying to do too much individually and not trusting each other. Part of that is I’m putting out a different rotation every single set, so they’re not getting used to anything, but that’s not an excuse. We’re still not doing our jobs very well, but we are staying positive. I told them I wanted them to walk away from this knowing we still have a lot of work to do.”
In the opening match against Abilene High, the Lady Lions got off to a sluggish start, played their best ball of the day in the second set and beginning of the third, then tailed off down the stretch. Against Cooper, the Lady Lions never appeared to establish a rhythm at any point in the entire match.
“I felt like we played much better against Abilene High and they’re the better team,” Beelby said. “I don’t know if sitting around and watching made us relax a little too much and we came back unfocused, or if we were a little shell-shocked. I really don’t know what happened, but we’re looking forward to the future. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish that matters and these were two good teams.
“I saw a lot of good things today, we just need to be more consistent at doing those things. We need to keep things a little more simple, again we’re trying to do too much at times individually, and we need to push harder in practice every single day.”
The highlight of Brownwood’s day was easily the second set against Abilene High. Kristen Fuentes and Bailey Randle collected kills to help the Lady Lions rally from a five-point deficit to close to within 14-13. Abilene High regrouped, however, and closed the set with 11 of the final 16 points.
Brownwood jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the third set, ignited by a block from freshman Jenna Lyons, but Abilene High drew even at 6 and never trailed again.
The Lady Lions will return to Abilene Friday and Saturday to take part in the annual Bev Ball Classic. While Brownwood did have its share of issues Tuesday, the Lady Lions have hitters to spare, a dilemma Beelby hopes to sort out soon.
“I have a really good problem in that I have a lot of hitters I can move around in different positions,” Beelby said. “Kayli Waddle and Payton Kallman played middle and right side and Maddie Oines and Jenna Lyons played outside and right side. We’re just trying to see where they fit best, where they work together best. We have a lot of versatility and I have to figure out who fits best where.”