By Matthew Yoder
Slow starts have been a dilemma difficult to overcome for Arcadia’s volleyball team this season. Tuesday night Northampton’s diminutive but crafty Jacqueline Maldonado opened the match with 8 straight points on her serve and history appeared poised to repeat itself. On this night, however, trends did not follow suit and the Firebirds employed balanced play en route to a four-set victory at home against the Yellow Jackets.
Arcadia fought hard to erase an early large lead in the first set by Northampton, with strong play at the net by Imani Press. The Firebirds delivered on long rallies and after a bit of a seesaw midway through the set grabbed the lead and finished strong, winning 25-19.
Northampton opened the second set with another considerable lead and kept that lead with a strong effort by Jada Giddens. The net was her domain, placing the ball effectively on offense and defending with confident blocks. Arcadia made a run to get back into the set, but powerful spike attempts by Emani Press fell just short and the match was level. Yeats James ended the set at 25-14 with a strong spike for the Yellow Jackets.
Arcadia took control of the match in the third set, and the Press sisters asserted themselves as dominating presences, even to themselves. Early in the set they collided with one another and Emani had to exit the match, albeit temporarily. Her sister remained on the court, serving powerfully and handling herself at the net intelligently. By the time Emani returned, Arcadia had built a strong lead against a tense Northampton team, and her serves signaled a swift end to the set at 25-9.
She joked about her absence following the collision as potentially restoring her energy.
“I guess I just needed a break,” Press said.
Northampton appeared determined to lengthen the match with their play in the fourth set. Again Giddens was strong at the net, as was James for the Yellow Jackets. The set played itself out evenly for a time, but the Press sisters were again too much. Their serves and play at the net were equally effective and were complemented by strong efforts down the depth chart for the Firebirds. Coach Anna Williams entered this match tooling with her lineup, inserting players from her JV squad even.
“I changed my lineup, I am very proud of my team, they all played very well,” Williams said.
Arcadia advanced the fourth set in their favor midway through and at 21-13 Emani Press confidently approached a spike attempt, saying, “I got it,” completing it with ease.
Haley McDaniel dove to her knees and stretched her forearms for great saves on consecutive points for the Firebirds, and as by chance with the rotation, she served the match out energetically for the win.
“We played tonight like we know how to play,” said Williams.
Her sister duo was all smiles describing what changed for their team in this match.
“We set the tone,” Imani Press said.
Her sister concurred.
“We learned how to start strong,” said Emani Press.
Twins humbly stating the facts and now looking for future gains.
“We need to keep the momentum of this game and get even better next time,” Imani Press said.
Northampton coach Cathy Doughty was quick to praise Arcadia’s effort and remain optimistic moving forward with her squad.
“They served really tough,” said Doughty.
She believed her young team played a bit too aggressive and were hampered by unforced errors. Such is the case for a team learning in the heat of competition.
“The outlook is good, but the growing pains are tough,” Doughty said.