Graduation hit Delta hard in the volleyball ranks after the 2020 season; however, Heather Carrizales’ Panthers retooled and passed their first test of 2021 by sweeping past Fayette 25-4, 25-15, 25-12 in the Panthers’ season and home opener Monday.
“We lost five seniors who were all starters,” explained Carrizales. “It was hard to replace them but we found girls who could step up to the plate and do the job. We have six returners and six more up from JV that are all great kids. It’s just about finding that rhythm in the rotation, trying to get that to work together. We are trying to find a good fit.”
One of the key returnees for the Panthers, Sophia Burres, got Delta rolling with a trio of aces early in the first set to give her team a 4-0 lead.
That lead extended to 10-4 aided by Jessica Erd’s ace, Alyesa Brown’s kill and a Burres push.
Then Aizlynn O’Brien got hot with the serve, sticking six aces and rattling off the last 15 points in a first set romp.
However, that potent serving game the Panthers had in the first set, left the court in the second.
Ashley Gill recorded back-to-back aces but Delta was guilty of six serving mistakes in the set.
“The girls said the ball kept floating, so I don’t know if the ball was pumped up too much or what,” joked Carrizales.
“I think they just have to reel it in a little. They were excited, first home game, they were pretty intense.”
Leah Carnicom’s kill kept Fayette tight at 3-2, then Carnicom scored on a second ball tip to keep the Eagles in striking distance at 10-5.
A Gretchen Culler ace and two kills from Sydney Churchill countered a Carnicom ace and a score out of the middle from Alicyn Brown to maintain a 16-10 Delta lead.
A mishit on an attack brought Fayette back within five but a big serve from Churchill, Jersey Irelan’s score, and two more aces from Burres made up for the miscues from behind the serving line for a 25-15 win.
Erd and O’Brien keyed a 12-2 opening run in the third set with Erd’s solo block and an angular redirect from O’Brien.
Brown’s consecutive aces got Fayette back to 14-6, but Culler’s push to the back line, Churchill’s tip dunk and Tatum Tolson’s score helped put away the set and the match.
“We still need to improve on our attacking at the net,” Carrizales said. “Passing always. You always have to improve on passing in volleyball. Getting to where we are supposed to be on defense and obviously our serves.”