By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO – Call it rust. Call it first-game jitters.
It wasn't pretty but the host Salado volleyball team was able to hold off upstart Harker Heights 25-21, 26-24, and 25-20 on Tuesday in its season opener.
"It's the first match of the season, and we have three girls that have never played varsity before, so there were jitters there," said Salado coach Bree Holz-Gonzales. "We're trying a lot of new things and you're going to make mistakes, especially with our hitters."
Overcome by a plethora of unforced errors, including shots that flew well out of bounds on several occasions, the Lady Eagles (1-0) looked nothing like the team that went to the Class 2A regional finals last season, finishing 37-6 overall and 11-1 in District 25-2A.
But after losing five key players to graduation – including first-team all-state selection Danielle Hazzard – and with no seniors on the roster, Holz-Gonzales wasn't surprised by the slow start.
"It's basically a whole new team this year from last year," Holz-Gonzales said. "So we have some timing issues, but that can be worked on easily with more practice."
Among the pleasant surprises for the Lady Eagles was the performance of junior Brennan Boydstun, who led the team with 33 assists and 20 digs in her first game as the team's new setter.
Grabbing early leads in each of the three games, Salado allowed a Lady Knights squad that managed just two victories in District 12-5A last season and finished 5-20 overall to rally each time.
"We did a great job tonight and the girls came out and fought hard," said first-year coach Chris Wiley. "They showed they have a lot of heart and desire to work toward our ultimate goal of making the playoffs."
Still adjusting to Wiley's new defense-first approach, Heights (0-2) pressured Salado with several big run-killing stops as senior libero Darcy Parks led the Lady Knights with 19 digs. Parks was hitting the floor with such tenacity, she busted open her chin in the midst of a huge 11-4 swing late in the third match as Heights rallied from a 20-9 deficit before eventually falling 25-20.
"We were able to use our defense to help (our offense), and really what it came down to was a defensive match," Wiley said. "And I'll take my chances in a defensive match like that any day."
Leading the way offensively for Salado were juniors Jenna Sebek, who had 10 kills and 2.5 blocks, and Hadley Joiner, who also knocked in 10 kills.
"I'm happy with the win," Holz-Gonzales said. "It was probably a little closer because of all the unforced errors, but a win's, a win."
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or at (254) 501-7566.
TUESDAY'S HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Killeen def. Manor, 25-14, 28-26, 25-8
Lampasas def. Shoemaker, 25-17, 25-19, 25-20
Salado def. Harker Heights, 25-21, 26-24, 25-20
Copperas Cove def. Kerrville Tivy, 25-15, 25-21, 25-19