MULLICA HILL – In this, her final season coaching the Washington Township High School girls volleyball team, Barbara McBrearty is off to her best start.
The Minutemaids improved to 10-1 with a 2-0 victory over Clearview Tuesday afternoon. The Pioneers, who are in the midst of a trying season, gave Washington Township all it could handle, but the Minutemaids hung together, winning the first game, 25-16, and the second one, 25-22.
It has been wild, wonderful, yet somewhat surprising ride so far for the Minutemaids. Their only loss was to Williamstown, but they also have beaten several old rivals – Cherokee, Cherry Hill East, and Eastern - and that hasn’t happened much in past seasons.
“I think in the past our team was defeated before it played,” said McBrearty, who will continue to coach the boys team before she retires in 2020. “Our conference is so tough, but this year the girls come in (to each match) with a positive attitude and they believe in themselves that they can get the job done and that’s a big difference. They get the job done together. The intimidation factor is not there.”
Isabella Deal, one of eight seniors on the team, was one of the stars in Tuesday’s win. She had five kills, six digs, one assist, two aces and 11 service points. She said they started working toward this season in the summer.
“After last year a lot of us played club together,” said Deal, who is also a standout thrower on the Minutemaids track team. “In the summer, we started captains’ practices the last week of June and they went all the way up to tryouts in August. There were a couple of weeks where we had everyone there and sometimes we might miss one or two because of vacation. But we worked hard. We spent a lot of time together, a lot of time bonding. We had good focus and good chemistry on and off the court.”
Getting the win over Cherokee, where the Minutemaids played in front of a loud, fired up home team crowd, was particularly satisfying. Junior setter, Helena Ta, who had 20 assists against the Pioneers on Tuesday to go along with two kills, one dig, and three service points,. pointed out how important that win was.
“There are some games where maybe we don’t play at our best,” Ta said. “But when we beat Cherokee everyone was focused. It really boosted our confidence. “
That confidence is going to come in handy because the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Washington Township which has already qualified for the state tournament, the earliest it has ever done so. The Minutemaids will look to get even with Williamstown when they host the Braves on Thursday, and still have to travel to Eastern and Cherry Hill East. Every match is important as the top 16 seeds will get a first round home match in the state tournament.
“We have to get as many wins as we possibly can so we can get a top seed,” McBrearty said. “No one wants to take a three hour bus trip to play a 40-minute game. To have home field advantage with a big crowd cheering for us would be fun for the kids. That’s the goal right now.”
Seniors Brianna Eshelman and Taylor Crowley both had solid games for the Minutemaids. Eshelman had six kills, four blocks, two digs, one ace and six service points, while Crowley added six digs, one assist, one ace and four service points.
The Pioneers, who have won just one of 12 matches, Cameron Cooey had one ace, 10 service points, four kills, 3 blocks and six digs, and Savanna Heggon had two aces, six service points, one kill, 13 assists, one block and six digs.