Late struggles cost Neal spikers
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
For two sets, the interruption of their season by Hurricane Ivan seemed to be the best thing that could have happened to the W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles volleyball team.
W.S. Neal responded from a two-week break with two of its best sets of the season against visiting Opp Monday. Just when the Lady Blue Eagles appeared to have turned the corner, the wheels came off in a 25-23, 22-25, 25-13, 25-11 setback to the Lady Bobcats.
"Considering everything, we did a lot of good things. We had some great blocks at the net, especially Jennifer Partridge. Erica Cardwell had some effective serves for us. We cut down our serve/receive mistakes considerably," W.S. Neal coach Kraig Rittenhouse said. "What hurt us the last two sets is we got away from running our offense. We stopped using the setter. Opp found the open holes in our defense and we couldn't find the ones on their side."
The Lady Blue Eagles (1-6) led a large portion of the first set. W.S. Neal had a 6-4 edge after a four-point service string by Maggie Crutchfield, a 10-7 advantage after a pair of points by Jamica Thomas and a 13-10 lead after two points by Jullian Crutchfield with the aid of a kill by sister Maggie.
Opp changed the complexion of the set when it scored the next five points and 10 of the next 12 to move in front 20-15.
A late rally by the Lady Blue Eagles nearly enabled them to pull out the set.
A tipped ball for a point by Brittany Tagudar and a pair of points by Jullian Crutchfield cut Opp's lead to jsut 24-23, but the rally ended when the Lady Bobcats won the set on a defensive point.
The second set was much like the first except in reverse.
Opp led until the middle stages when W.S. Neal turned an 11-10 deficit into a 20-13 lead thanks to four service points by Cardwell, four points and three aces by Maggie Crutchfield and a block for a point by Partridge.
The Lady Blue Eagles closed out the set win with three defensive points and two service points by Jullian Crutchfield.
Offense was hard to come by for W.S. Neal in the final two sets. It fell behind 17-5 in set four by the time it generated an offensive point. The Lady Blue Eagles had just three total offensive points in that set.
Opp raced out to a 6-0 lead in the finale and had a 9-2 lead by the time W.S. Neal scored an offensive point by Jessica Fountain.The Lady Bobcats later added a 6-0 string that extended their cushion to 21-6 en route to the victory.
W.S. Neal, which hosted Escambia County and Andalusia Tuesday, hosts Flomaton Thursday at 4:30 p.m.