Story and Photo by Matthew Yoder
In the stands, the game had less of the intensity of last week’s five-set affair, but on the court, it was Chincoteague’s dominating play that made it so. The Ponies came out expertly prepared and won in straight sets, 25-10, 25-19, 25-20, against the Firebirds Tuesday night.
Imani Press opened the game for Arcadia with a spike, but Emma Jackson responded for Chincoteague similarly and all night. In pregame drills, she brought maximum effort and delivered her enthusiasm to the match.
“I was ready to win,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to win a district title.” Chincoteague appeared every bit a team on a mission from the outset. They made early and timely substitutions to keep players fresh and execute on a game plan. Caroline Shelley also played strong at the net and substantial points were gained on her serve in the first set, which was a runaway start for the Ponies.
Chincoteague coach Sarah Sharpley, always one to pay attention to every point and placement of defenders on the court, made adjustments following the lengthy match with Arcadia just a week prior.
“The strategy is to be smart with the ball and look for the open spots,” said Sharpley.
The Ponies scrimmage with this plan in mind and completely took the crowd out of the game by executing with precision.
Jackson continued to dominate in the second set and was aided by strong plays at the net by Natalie Scelci and Allie Bell. Arcadia rolled off five consecutive points following a powerful mid-court spike by Haley McDaniel but failed to sustain against relentless pressure by Chincoteague.
Coach Jimmy Bloxom urged his Ponies to “stay aggressive” to avoid a repeat of last week.
Following the second set victory by Chincoteague, he turned to a Post reporter and said, “deja vu,” as they again entered the third set having dominated to build a substantial lead.
On this night they kept their composure entering the third set, taking the court with smiles and appearing decidedly confident. Arcadia’s players seemed a little more dispirited, their fans, outside of some toss-up calls by referees, disheartened.
Alanna Hall shined for the Ponies in the final set. She commanded the net well. Delilah Flores tickled the net with a number of serves, one resulting in an ace. Another rally late in the set was no match for Chincoteague as they continued to rotate fresh legs and prioritize playing time for players down the depth chart.
Emma Jackson was quick to bestow praise upon the efforts of the team as a whole.
“It’s not just me, everything pieced together,” Jackson said.
For the 4-2 Ponies and Bloxom, however, their ascension is bolstered by the play of a humble Jackson.
“If we keep feeding number 12 the ball we’ll be fine,” said Bloxom. On the Arcadia side, an 0-3 record is not indicative of their effort. They fight hard against insurmountable leads up until the final point.
“They just need to support each other, they’ll work it out,” said coach Anna Williams.
Postgame they convened as a team to make adjustments moving forward.
“We all try to talk about what to fix,” said McDaniel, and tomorrow’s match is always an opportunity to brush aside the past.