During Tuesday’s volleyball match at Beatty High School, one team looked as if it had played about 15 matches while the other looked as if it was starting the season.
Unfortunately for Hornets coach Steve Sullivan, his team looked as if it was starting the season despite having 15 matches under its belt.
The Hornets had trouble with the basics, especially returning serves and getting their rotations straight, and the result was a 25-15, 25-22, 25-18 defeat to Tonopah.
“We played five at the Yerington tournament, I think we played four at the Battle Mountain tournament and five at the Trona tournament, and we played the Pahrump JV,” Sullivan said. “So we’ve played about 15, and we don’t show it. We don’t show it at all.”
The problems started early, as Tonopah’s servers racked up easy point after easy point. The Muckers served 25 times during the first set, and nine times the ball didn’t come back over the net.
“Receiving the serve is being willing to be active,” Sullivan said. “Some girls don’t even move their feet at all. Some girls take two steps and automatically think they’re done.
“I think receiving the serve and serving is a lot of pressure, and that’s when I think about the maturity part of it and the confidence part of it. I don’t feel our girls are confident in the back row when they’re ready to receive the serve, and I think when they’re back there to serve I think they’re putting extra pressure on themselves.”
Both teams had plenty of issues serving, with the Muckers recording 14 service errors to the Hornets’ eight. But Tonopah had far fewer problems returning serves and in general played with more confidence throughout the match.
“I think we need to mature out on the court, and I think we need to establish a different type of mentality,” he said. “I don’t think we go out there with confidence. I think we start out timid and we just roll with the punches.”
Beatty’s last lead in the opening set was 2-1, and the Hornets never led during the second, but the teams were neck and neck for much of the third, which featured six ties on the way to 10-10. Beatty then went on a mini-roll, taking a 16-11 lead and looking pretty good in the process.
“Things have to be going right in order for us to be confident,” Sullivan said. “If we are out of system, if we are challenged by their serves or anything like that, and we make a mistake or we don’t execute, that’s when we immediately start to falter.
“But if things roll and we can build up some points and build up some momentum, then we’re confident. And you’ll see them and their cheers and they’re jumping higher and they’re louder, and then all of a sudden we lose it, the other team gets a side out and we instantly go back to zero.”
Being that fragile makes it very difficult to weather a storm, but the Hornets’ problems Tuesday night were also much more basic.
“We’ve got to do more repetitions in practice to try to get it more innate, our shifts, our transitions, our rotations,” Sullivan said. “We kept messing up the exact same rotation all night, even when we talk about it. I had to burn four timeouts just because we’re out of rotation.”
At one point, Sullivan’s frustrations became obvious.
“Every time I’d say something to fix it they would instantly turn and shake their head and finally in a timeout I said, ‘Stop agreeing with me and just do it!’” said Sullivan, who was easily heard at that point. “‘I’m getting sick and tired of you agreeing with me and shaking your head. If you truly knew it, it would have happened.’ And I think they’d admit it.
“There were some positives, but not the type of positives we should be seeing after 15 games.”
One positive was their fight. Playing well for two-thirds of the third set did not seem to be in the cards after the way they played during the first two.
“I didn’t even think of that,” Sullivan acknowledged after the match. “I’m thinking about all of the things we’ve got to do in practice tomorrow. They fought, They blew it at the end, but they came out in the third set down 2-0 and they fought. But Tonopah’s a good team. They look like the team that’s been to three tournaments and played some matches, and we look like a team that just started.”
The Hornets must find a way to establish their presence on the court and play with confidence from start to finish, and they will have time to work that out. Beatty will not take the court again until Oct. 1, when the Hornets open Southern League play against Liberty Baptist in Las Vegas.
It might take that long to get the memory of Tuesday’s loss out of their heads.
“The girls aren’t going to be mad at me for saying this, but I wish I had something good to say,” Sullivan said. “We all know we’re better than this.”