By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Madison volleyball coach Norm Potter may have circled Tuesday’s date on his calendar, but not because he was looking forward to the Blue Streaks’ trip to Lakeside.
After spending last season as the Dragons’ coach, Madison’s 25-21, 25-13, 25-20 victory was a bittersweet affair for Potter.
“For me, it’s all about the kids,” Potter said. “I want to see all of them succeed. I do not like to play my former players. I wanted to help both sides. It was hard to be there and see my kids and not interact with them the way I wanted to.”
Potter’s return was also a little tough for Lakeside coach Alyssa Hill, who served on Potter’s staff.
“It was hard,” Hill said. “He came up right away and we shook hands and talked. He is my buddy, but even though we’re buddies, we’re also rivals now.
“It’s hard for the kids, too. It’s awkward for them. It’s awkward for me. It’s hard to see them run over and talk to the other coach.”
The Blue Streaks (6-2, 1-2 in Premier Athletic Conference) didn’t start well in each of the three games, but were able to turn the tide in their favor when they needed to.
“We finished well,” Potter said. “We didn’t start any of the games strong. We had to come back in each one. I don’t know if it was nerves, with a young a team, it’s hard to tell.”
For Hill, losing each game after taking a lead was discouraging.
“It’s hard to talk about it after the fact,” she said. “We played well and still lost. You ask, ‘How did that happen? What went wrong?’
“The girls have been playing so hard. We were down, 24-20, and they were still fighting even though there was only one point left. That’s something that’s been a huge change for these girls. They’re still not winning, but they’re fighting.”
Eventually, Madison turned the tide in its favor by making the Dragons (0-4, 0-3) make mistakes.
“We kept the ball going,” Potter said. “We kept the pressure on them. We were down a couple times, but my girls are used to the pressure. We did a good job of putting the pressure on and staying focused.
“We started to hit our serves more consistently and more forcefully. The girls have been in that position, being down, before and we were able to work under that. Really, we just got back to basics.”
Hill didn’t see things a whole lot differently from Potter.
“It was consistency,” she said. “They were consistently getting it over and making us make mistakes. Our passing was inconsistent.
“We were not moving. They tipped a lot. We just needed to move. I pulled our best passer (Lexi David) up to setter to change things. (David) did a heck of a job, but that could’ve been where we went wrong. I think it was a good move. Now, I just have to see what other move I can make to make the team stronger.”
The pint-sized Jess McPeek paced the Blue Streaks with 11 kills.
“The last couple of matches, she’s been fun to watch,” Potter said. “She’s the type of hitter who’s frustrates defenders because none of her hits are clean. She hits it off the blocks, off the net. She’s a smart player. She sees the court well.”
Madison was without starter Taylor Goudy, who has an injured ankle, but Alicia Major (3 kills), Meghan Sill, Kelly Duthie (6 digs) and Taylor Henry did a nice job taking up the slack.
“What we did was have four people in the three games fill that spot,” Potter said. “They haven’t been seeing a lot of varsity time.”
Sharisse Hunt led the Dragons with 4 kills on 10-of-13 spiking and Alissa Patterson was 7 of 8 spiking with two kills and nine blocks. She also was 13 of 13 passing and 6 of 7 setting.
“Alissa Patterson had a fantastic overall night,” Hill said. “She was a leader. She talked. She set, passed and hit.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.