So much about this Bonneville volleyball team is different from previous seasons. The Bees, who have either claimed a state title or come one match away in each of the past five years, return little of that experience this year. They rely on one senior to guide a collection of green players.
Some have developed quickly and skipped steps in their progression. Others are still working to get there.
The only things that haven’t changed, even in a season as peculiar as this, are the results.
That was hard to miss in Bonneville’s 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-19) road win over Skyline Thursday night, when the Bees navigated little drama for their 14th victory in 15 tries.
The only theatrics came when Skyline (11-12, 3-1) had the most work to do. Bonneville captured each of the first two sets with ease, including a 10-0 run in the second set, but the Bees ran into trouble when the Grizzlies pieced together a rally in the third set.
Skyline built a 15-10 lead. Bonneville’s errors stacked. The limited number of fans roared with coronavirus-level proportions.
But Bonneville (14-1) answered and tied the set at 18-all. Then it took a 20-19 lead. The Bees slammed the door and seized the final five points, maneuvering through what head coach Chantal McMurtrey called a “third-set breakdown.”
“That always happens in volleyball,” McMurtrey said. “I actually told them in the huddle before the game ‘This is going to be the hardest set of all of them, right here. They’re going to really give a push and you guys are going to take your foot off the gas.’
“That always happens. So frustrating. We’re trying to work on that.”
The good news for the Bees is that they can do so following a win. They can thank a few players for the opportunity.
Freshman Kaylie Kofe tallied 10 aces. Her teammates added 14 more, good for 24 on the night. Junior Mia Sorensen registered 10 kills, eight digs and six aces, while senior Mariah Jardine carded seven kills, six digs and four aces.
Only one of those numbers stood out to Skyline coach Bryant Neibaur, though.
Informed of the number, he said, “Oh gosh.” He buried his head in his hands.
“Bottom line, we need to communicate more. We need lots more touches with good feedback,” he said.
The Grizzlies seldom got it.
The main reason was unforced errors. There’s no good time to commit them, but they came at particularly unfortunate times for the Grizzlies, whose mistakes allowed the Bees to prolong runs that could have ended sooner.
For example, in the midst of Bonneville’s 10-0 run in Set 2, a Skyline player had a serve glance off her hands and out of bounds. At other times, the Grizzlies committed service errors into the net. The Bees had little trouble securing a 25-12 win in the second set.
Some of that changed in the third though, which encouraged Neibaur.
“My key players stepped up the third set, where they struggled the first two,” he said. “We started finding some success with our passes. We started passing better, and also hitting to better spots.”
In one sense, it’s hard to blame Skyline for this loss. Bonneville is already one of the best teams in the state, but because it had trouble dispatching Shelley on Tuesday, McMurtrey made Wednesday’s practice a “day of reckoning.”
“We set the tempo right at the beginning,” she said, “with a lot of fast movement. We just didn’t let them get away with things.”
McMurtrey will hope that practice, combined with Thursday’s win, will pay dividends for her Bees, who will travel for a tournament at Madison starting Oct. 2.
Neibaur, on the other hand, took something else away from his team's loss.
“It’s a long rivalry between us and Bonneville, and they’ve come out on top a lot for the last several years,” said Neibaur, whose team will play at the Triple Threat Showcase Friday and Saturday. “We’re just trying to figure out how to play at their level.”