Everybody has their kryptonite. Everybody has that one hurdle that no matter how hard they try they just come up short of getting over it. Sometimes a team just has your number.
For as far back as electronic records will allow - and more recently during the tenure of current head coach Jim Barnes — the Indian River girls’ volleyball team has been unable to get over the hump that is known as Smyrna.
For the second consecutive year, the Indians — winners of their second straight Henlopen Conference South Division title — fell in straight sets to the Eagles in the conference championship match, 3-0, at Woodbridge High School.
It was the fourth straight Henlopen Conference championship for the Eagles as they took the match with scores of 25-21, 25-18, and 25-14.
“I thought the first set was important, and we couldn’t close it out,” a disappointed Barnes said after the match. “The second set, I thought we adjusted, but I thought Smyrna, I mean, they’re a good team. They beat us. That was unexpected. I really thought we had the team to come in here and beat Smyrna.”
The all-important first set Barnes eluded to was a see-saw affair as both teams took leads only to see them evaporate with timely digs and kills. The Indians had an initial 3-0 lead at the outset, but the Eagles went on a 13-4 run to take a 13-7 advantage.
IR responded with six straight points of its own to knot the score at 13-all, and it was enough to force Smyrna head coach Daniel Wandless to take a timeout to slow the Indians’ momentum.
All told in the first set there were 13 ties with each team going on runs to put the other on their heels. However, Smyrna was able to win five of the final six points in the first set to pull it out 25-21.
“I think towards the end we just got a little frazzled, and so we were just making dumb errors,” said sophomore sensation Raychel Ehlers. “We beat ourselves in the end of the games. Each set, when it go to like the last 5-10 points, we just lost it.”
Ehlers finished the match with 19 kills and 12 digs. Marianni Chavez had 22 assists, and Jessica Amezcua chipped in with eight digs for the Indians as well.
“This did not turn out how I had expected,” Barnes continued. “Hats off to Smyrna. They are a good team. They are well coached. They played really well. They are fundamentally sound, and they hit really well.
“One of our goals was to beat Smyrna this year, win the Henlopen Conference. We had an opportunity to do that, and we didn’t get it done. We got beat. We can make excuses. I could put it on certain things, but the bottom line is Smyrna beat us.”
The second set started out much like the first with both teams going back-and-forth looking to take advantage of the other’s mistakes. Five different times they were tied, but an impressive run of 7-1 by the Eagles closed out the second set, 25-18.
Down, but not out, the Indians kept trying to claw its way back into things, but a lack of communication which led to unforced errors was too much to overcome with Smyrna rolling to the clinching 25-14 third set win.
The Indians’ finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark, and earned themselves a berth in the DIAA State Playoffs, which opened on Thursday, Nov. 1, against Appoquinimink at St. Mark’s. Results of this match can be found on our Facebook page since it was played after the Coastal Point press time.
“A southern team has never made it past the second round of states,” Ehlers concluded. “We want to try to do that now, obviously. We just have to play hard, and see how far we can take it from here now. We have everyone back again next year, so every time out is a learning experience for us.”
By Jason Feather