EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The ACIT girls volleyball team got an early wake-up call when it took on host Egg Harbor Township, a first-year program, on Wednesday afternoon. The Eagles made it known very quickly that despite their lack of experience, they weren't going to be a pushover.
EHT jumped out to a 6-4 lead in the opening game, and halfway through had a 12-8 lead before the RedHawks finally woke up and went on an 8-1 run that gave them a 16-13 lead. ACIT then scored nine of the next 11 points to win the first game, 25-15, and won the second game 25-16 to score a 2-0 win and improve to 4-1. The win was the second straight for the RedHawks, whose only setback was a 2-0 loss to Collingswood on Monday.
"We've been known as a really scrappy team, and so are they. They gave us a good fight," said ACIT outside hitter Brooke Armitage, who led the team with three kills. "I think it was just not knowing what to expect and our communication was off, but by the end we got the ball rolling and I think we handled it pretty well."
"I think it went really well even though they are a first-year program. They are tough and they were fighting, I think they are doing good," added RedHawks senior captain Alix Proctor. "We learned their skills and adapted to how they were playing. Our communication needs to get better. Talking is a big part of volleyball."
The RedHawks have been learning a new lineup with the graduation of setter Angie Yarrow, but Samantha Dangler has stepped in and done a great job so far. She racked up nine assists against EHT, and once she got rolling the RedHawks were able to overcome the early deficit. ACIT also got some solid play from Jada Miller (six aces, two kills) and some key service points from Chloe Wolverton (four aces, three kills) down the stretch in Game 1 to pull away.
"We lost our starting setter, so (we have to work on) just getting the pass there for the set so our new setter can get into the rhythm of things," Armitage said.
Added Proctor, "as long as we just stay a family and communicate, we'll be fine."
The Eagles got some key contributions from Jenna Nolan, a junior who is one of the few players with travel volleyball experience, as well as from basketball converts such as Sierra Hegh and Mackenzie Mahana. RedHawks coach Kevin Miller, who is in his fourth year and started up the ACIT program, said he was impressed with the first-year Eagles.
"I told them at the end of yesterday's match that we have to go into EHT expecting them to be a good team because we don't know what they have. We couldn't underestimate them, which, unfortunately, our girls did a little bit, but that just shows that EHT was better than our girls thought and more power to them," he said. "They have a couple club girls, which is awesome. They are definitely headed in the right direction."
ACIT takes on Cedar Creek on Friday, then has a big match at home against Absegami on Monday.
"I feel like we have a good shot at making it back to the playoffs this year, and hopefully we'll make it farther than we did last year," Armitage said. "We're only a fourth-year team so we're just trying to continue to get better."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays