It’s no mistake that North Adams-Jerome is the No. 4 ranked team in the latest Class D MIVCA volleyball poll — just ask Camden-Frontier head coach Dawn Follis.
For the second time this season Follis saw her athletic, determined girls get hyped up for a major SCAA tilt with their crosstown rival, only to be swept.
Starting with its defense and spreading the ball around to several able hitters the Rams methodically wore out the Redskins 25-21, 25-18, 25-15 to improve to a perfect 10-0 in the division and 25-3 overall.
Camden-Frontier had plenty of passion and a number of jaw-dropping digs to keep points alive, but they lacked the consistency and efficiency that makes the Rams so good.
“We don’t really have any big put-away hitters, it’s just defense, defense, defense and hit spots and that’s working pretty good so far,” N A-J head coach Darren Kittle said, noting it was a relief to leave Camden-Frontier with a victory. “That’s a really well coached team and playing here is crazy, it’s always like this. It’s nerve wracking and you think about it a week before you play — it’s just good to get out of here and keep our record like it is.”
The Redskins led the first set 10-9, but several miscommunications and faulty serves proved to be too much to overcome.
Follis said her team played “100 percent better” than the last time they played the Rams, but she has a hard time staring down at a .500 record in the league, with so many questions still to be answered.
“We’ve got really good athletes, but sometimes you have that in your girls but just can’t come off with a win,” she said. “It’s been tough, I’ve been banging my head against the wall thinking ‘You’ve got 10 athletes, what are we not doing?’ So yeah, it’s been very tough.”
A number of different Rams filled up the stat sheet including Kristen Trudell with 29 assists, 11 digs and five aces and Miranda Hammons with 10 digs and seven kills, but it was sophomore Shannen Kittle (19 digs) who kept a number of Redskin rallies to a minimum with dependable digs on powerful shots, helping set up the Rams offense time and again.
Darren Kittle said volleyball is almost just a natural instinct for Shannen.
“She should (be able to anticipate the ball that well), she’s been playing since she was born,” he said. “That really helps — we’re into our offense probably 80 percent of the time because of her, and I think any coach would be happy with something like that.”
Benefitting from the flow Kittle and Trudell seem to always get in were front-line players like Megan Brown and Chelsea Docherty.
Brown had nine kills and seven digs, while Docherty had six kills and four solo blocks. Katelyn Smith added five kills.
Follis said the consistency of the entire team is what makes N A-J so tough, but she couldn’t help but be envious of having a player like Kittle.
“The reason Shannen Kittle is always there is because she’s got a great head, she’s always thinking, she knows where to be,” she said. “A lot of kids who have natural knacks for it, they know where to be almost before the ball is there, and that’s why she makes it look easy so much of the time. She’s thinking before the ball gets there so she doesn’t have to do all these emergency things.”
For C-F, Danielle Abney showcased her power on several occasions, tallying five kills, but it was the relentless hustle and continual effort of girls like Morgan Warfield and Jessica Hines who kept the Redskins close.
Hines finished the night with 11 digs, eight assists, three kills and two aces, while Warfield had eight digs, six kills and five assists.
“We’re playing better, we played a very skilled team, and that’s what we’ve been struggling with….good skills is definitely what it came down to, and consistency,” Follis said. “I was pleased with the improvement because the last time (North Adams-Jerome) just completely controlled the game and we never had anything going. The improvement was we played a lot better and I told my ladies that this is almost like the first day of our season because you finally are starting to do what you’ve been capable of doing, but haven’t quite put together it.
They will have a chance to continue their progress at a tournament in Homer this weekend, while Kittle gets his team ready for a battle with Colon and matches with Pittsford and Waldron prior to a heavily anticipated showdown with Hillsdale Academy.
Kittle said one of the most impressive things about this year’s team is their ability to deal with the pressure of high expectations.
“They don’t get frazzled at all. They’re probably the best team I’ve had in 23 years of not getting caught up into everything,” he said. “If they get it hit hard on them, they just say ‘Oh well,’ and move on to the next point. They have very short memories.”