Facing one of the best teams in the South Puget Sound League, let alone the state of Washington, it would have been easy for the South Kitsap Wolves to lie down in the face of adversity.
It may have seemed that way again on paper as the Curtis Vikings took care of business in another straight-set sweep (25-15, 25-18, 25-18) of the Wolves Sept. 26, but SK coach CJ Scott saw it as a promising fight that gave him a glimpse into what a future competitive team could look like in The Den.
“This is a very scrappy team,” the coach said. “They stay with it, and they fight, and we’ve improved every match. I’m excited for what we can be.”
Much of that talk refers to the youth of his squad, with four freshmen and one sophomore not only suiting up but playing key roles in the varsity match. It still doesn’t outnumber the seven seniors who make up the heavy hitters, but those younger players carry and live by something that Scott has yearned for in his time as coach: club experience.
“We have more freshmen and sophomores playing club than we ever have,” he said. “They’re coming in with the volleyball experience. It’s just building that team chemistry.”
With that youth, however, comes increased work on establishing player discipline, and the evening match vs. the Vikings was a clear reminder of that. Even though the Wolves matched the first few blows, Curtis used a healthy mix of heavy kills and service aces to pull away on a 10-point run. The Wolves were barely able to keep up, lacking communication and connection when setting up attack.
Scott said: “Offensively, we need to put the ball away. You have good teams that dig everything. At some point, you gotta put it away. You need good passing, and our setting needs to be consistent.”
The Wolves woke up in the early parts of the second half, taking a three-point lead in the second set that forced a Curtis timeout. The set would go back and forth all the way up to a dead even 16-16, but Curtis again used the Wolves’ mistakes to win set two.
Set three was relatively the same, a late pullaway by the Vikings to take the match, but from Scott’s point of view, the competitive pressure his girls put up is a sign of things to come.
“With where our league is this year, there’s three teams at the top, but I think we’re right there in the mix with everyone else. We’ve just got to put it all together and start beating some of those teams, but the opportunity is there,” he said.