FALCONER - For Coach Darin Kennedy, a Falconer victory over Jamestown on Tuesday evening hinged on two things: the ability to force, and then defend, the tip.
Force the tip and the Lady Golden Falcons would cancel out one of the Lady Red Raiders' toughest hitters in Kaytlin Haines.
Defend the tip and not only would that provide Falconer with more opportunities to take advantage of outside hitters Alyssa Brooks and Hanna Hollahan on the counter attack, but it would also increase the importance of play at the service line - an area in which Kennedy feels his team excels.
Kayla Fish serves for Falconer in a West Division 1 girls volleyball match against Jamestown. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
"(Defending the tip) was a main goal of ours," Kennedy said. "We wanted the tip and we knew we had to stop it. We're still young, we're still inexperienced, but we feed off two things we're good at, which is receiving the serve and outserving the other team."
Despite early struggles in instituting the game plan, Falconer eventually got rolling. In addition to limiting Haines to five kills - Kennedy put three at the net to force a tip more often than not - Falconer got a combined 21 kills from Brooks and Hollahan and, in a sign of just how strong their serving game can be, recorded a combined 43 aces on the way to a 25-22, 25-29, 25-15 West Division 1 sweep.
Kayla Fish led the way with 14 aces; Erin Roach chipped in with 11 more; Brooks, in addition to her game-high 12 kills, had eight aces; and Kalynn Swanson delivered 10 aces with 19 assists in the victory.
"They're gelling a bit," Kennedy said of his team, which improved to 4-1 overall and remained unblemished in league play at 4-0. "Even though it was a three-game sweep, it was still a serve and serve-receive duel."
Falconer's early issues with defending the tip resulted in a back-and-forth battle in the opening game, as each squad went on extended runs. Jamestown opened things up by tallying the first three points, Falconer the next six, then Jamestown the next four and Falconer another five.
"My backcourt was reading big hit instead of tip (early on) so they got a bit on their heels and weren't covering (the tip) was well," Kennedy said. "It's a tough thing because they're not used to playing on the balls of their feet and coming forward like they need to be when you play a team as good at tipping as Jamestown is.
"That's a tough transition, from dig, dig, dig to tip, tip, tip."
In the end it was the Lady Golden Falcons' serving prowess - with the game tied at 22 Brooks delivered an ace and a service winner to reach the winning margin - that salvaged the opening-game victory.
Falconer turned the corner soon thereafter, however, as it battled back from a pair of five-point deficits and soon began to build something of a lead. Crucial to the rallies were the backcourt's more rapid movements forward to better cover the tip and Hollahan, who delivered six kills on the ensuing counter attack.
Now able to negate Jamestown's game, Falconer, behind the combined efforts of Brooks and Fish, scored eight of the final 10 points to turn what had been a 17-17 tie into a 25-19 win.
"I try to tell them to be deceptive (when going up for the tip)," Jamestown coach Lindsey Vitello said, "to go up like you have multiple things in your arsenal, but unfortunately we didn't hide it very well and they did start to pick up on it."
With a commanding two-game lead and their game plan very much in sync, Falconer had a much easier time in the final set to close things out.
Fish tallied two aces and Hollahan ripped off a trio of kills to help build an 18-11 lead, and then, after Brooks connected for a block and two kills in quick succession, the senior clinched the victory with back-to-back aces.
NOTES: Jamestown fell to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in league following the loss. ... Along with Haines, who also had an ace and a three digs, Ally Boskat had five kills and two aces and Becky Rew had 15 assists.