How would the Del Norte High volleyball team react when the ball was served toward it?
That was the main question posed to the Warriors by their coaches, Debbie and Pablo Lorenzi, and of course by the visiting Illinois Valley Cougars on Tuesday evening.
Del Norte responded positively, exerting sufficient control to defeat Illinois Valley of Cave Junction, Ore., 25-12, 25-11, 25-19, in the first fall sporting contest held at Del Norte High School this season.
"I think we covered each other well," senior outside hitter Kiera Davis said. "We worked on our communication. It's a work in progress, but I think we're improving."
The Warriors (4-5 overall) effectively received the Cougars' serves and spread the ball around with accurate passing in the first two sets. Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Clemann (game-high 16 kills) and sophomore outside hitter Regin Loftin (seven kills) were the primary beneficiaries, keeping the Illinois Valley defense on its heels.
"I think that we were pretty aggressive," Pablo Lorenzi said. "Hitters that have shied off are coming around. I'd rather we attack (the opposition) and fail than be scared."
Del Norte senior Ashton Smedley (four kills) and juniors Sarah Levi and Katelyn Eninger (one kill apiece) opened up the Warriors' offensive attack by effectively controlling the middle of the net. Illinois Valley struggled to attack there.
"We need the middle not only for hitting but to take blocks from the outside (hitters)," Clemann said.
At 11-9 in the first game, Del Norte settled into a rhythm that the Cougars (0-1 overall) could not break as the Warriors scored 19 of the next 22 points. Illinois Valley capitalized on errors to close within 10-7 in the second game, but that was as close as the Cougars would come.
Del Norte attained a 17-8 lead in the third game but faltered in closing out Illinois Valley. A string of four hitting and serving errors allowed the Cougars as close as 19-16.
"They gave us free opportunities," Lorenzi said. "We didn't take advantage of those free opportunities."
Clemann responded to the string of errors with back-to-back kills and later added one of her three service aces as the Warriors closed out the match.
Davis and Kayla Costello each had four kills, with the sophomore setter Costello contributing on 16 assists. Smedley recorded four service aces for Del Norte.
The coaches' final verdict on the Warriors' serve-receive communication? Incomplete. Long way to go yet.
"We still didn't communicate at the level we wanted," Pablo Lorenzi said, "but we're getting better."
Ill. Valley JV 25-25,Del Norte JV 21-13
In the junior varsity game, Illinois Valley downed host Del Norte in straight sets.
The Warriors, coached by former Del Norte High and Chico State volleyball player Meagan Curtis, have 14 players from the freshman and sophomore ranks on their 2013 roster.
"We've got a long way to go," Curtis said. "We've got a few freshman stepping up and being able to play all the way around (the rotation). Things we worked on in practice, we didn't do as well (in the game) as we should have."
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com.