SHELBY — Shelby’s ups and downs haven’t been surprising, given how young the team still is, even after returning the bulk of last year’s youth movement. The Tigers got another trip on the roller coaster Tuesday, struggling most of the way in a 25-11, 25-14, 25-19 loss to WMC co-leader Whitehall.
The Tigers were never really in game one, but got off to a decent start in game two, tying the score at 6-6 and trailing 13-11 when a long rally unfolded. Whitehall got the best of that rally, which seemed to spark the Vikings, who outscored Shelby 11-3 after that point.
In game three, Whitehall made several early errors to spot the Tigers a 14-5 lead, but exploded from that point, going on a 13-2 burst en route to completing the sweep.
Shelby had only 12 kills all game long, as the offense hit in the negative percentage points and was never able to get on track.
“That tells the whole story, when you have 12 recordable kills in (three) games,” Shelby coach Tom Weirich said. “We just don’t put the ball away right now...In game three, they spot us 13 points, and we can’t finish that game. It’s on us. They just served at us, and we don’t find a way to finish the ball. We just have to keep practicing and keep working at it and start getting our minds right going into a game like that.”
Weirich felt his team was intimidated a bit by the Vikings, something Shelby should be past in its development as a team.
“We don’t need to be afraid of anything they’re doing,” Weirich said. “We just need to play our style of volleyball, and if it’s good enough, then we win, and if it’s not, we lose to a better team.
“You can’t be afraid of anyone in this conference. We’re too far along now to be afraid of them. I think there was a little of that going on tonight.”
Sharon Josephson had half of the Tigers’ 12 kills, and Kendall Zoulek led the defense with 23 digs. MaKennah Sawyer was the Tigers’ top server, with four aces.
One big thing Shelby has struggled with, Weirich said, is being banged up. The Tigers lost setter Lauren Dean with an injury a couple of weeks ago, and now libero Morgan Weirich is hobbled with a leg injury, though she has continued to play.
“That doesn’t help, when your best passer and your best setter (are) not part of the game as much as they need to be,” coach Weirich said.
A big factor in Whitehall’s favor was Rayne Thompson, the Vikings’ top offensive hitter, but less because of her hitting than because of her serving, which was supposed to be the (comparatively) weaker area of her game.
“We get Rayne Thompson into the back row and she serves us off the floor,” Weirich said. “The one place I didn’t think she’d kill us was in the back row, and I’m certain she scored more points at the service line than she did anywhere in the front row.”
Going forward, Shelby has plenty of chances to get on track. The Tigers play in a quad at Reed City on Thursday against teams they’ve had success against, Weirich said. Then, Saturday brings the Tigers’ annual home invitational. That’s a lot of volleyball, and lots of opportunities to improve the team’s performance.
“We have plenty of volleyball to work on some stuff and see if we can make it work,” Weirich said. “We have to keep getting better. We don’t want to throw this season away. We have a lot of talent on the team and we have to figure out how to put it all together.”