CRYSTAL LAKE – Some growing pains were to be expected when Prairie Ridge stepped onto the volleyball court for its season opener Tuesday against Lake Zurich.
The Wolves, with four seniors and eight sophomores on the roster, got off to a rough start, falling behind 16-9 in Game 1 and couldn't recover en route to a 2-0 (25-16, 25-18) loss to Lake Zurich.
Most frustrating for the Wolves were correctable mistakes that resulted in easy points for the Bears. Prairie Ridge finished the match with 24 unforced errors, many of which came off poor passes.
"I thought we'd be a little shaky because we've only played our [junior varsity team]," senior outside hitter Kennedy McNeil said. "But I didn't think it'd be this rough. We have this week to practice."
Prairie Ridge (0-1) worked to improve its serve receive leading up to Tuesday's season opener, and the Wolves still aren't satisfied with that area of their game. However, they realize there is still plenty of room for improvement and aren't fretting over a rough first game against a Lake Zurich (1-0) squad that returned six of seven starters from last year.
An 8-0 run in Game 2 forced the Bears to call a timeout holding a 21-18 lead, one of the better sequences for the Wolves. But two quick kills by Lake Zurich and two more unforced Wolves errors sealed the win for the Bears.
"They looked good in [stretches]," Wolves coach Stefanie Otto said. "It's just a matter of tying more of those together for us, and it's going to come with time."
As a young team featuring a few players appearing in their first varsity game – including junior outside hitter Charli Beam, whose four kills tied Kennedy to lead the team – the Wolves struggled to avoid getting down on themselves after a tough Game 1 performance.
Going forward, coming together as a team and forgetting about individual errors is a priority, senior setter Taylor Otto said.
"We need to think more as a whole and stay positive so we can forget about those errors and finish the game strong, which I really don't think we did," said Otto, who finished with 27 assists and two kills. "I think we all kind of got frustrated with each other which shouldn't be happening on a team like this."
The Wolves' loss was exacerbated by Otto's shin injury cropping up during the match. She was in visible pain after the game as she sat on the bench and had to ice her left shin in the trainer's room.
Otto opted to wear normal inserts instead of her special custom orthotics, which are supposed to help prevent a stress fracture, though she changed into them between Games 1 and 2. However, the pain in Otto's shin, which popped up during Game 1, still persisted after putting on the orthotics.
Stefanie Otto said Taylor will likely sit out practice the rest of the week ahead of the Wolves' match Tuesday against Crystal Lake Central. From now on, Taylor plans to wear the custom orthotics every time she plays after experiencing shooting pain from her left ankle up her shin anytime she took a stride.
"It [stinks] because I just want to be here for my team and it's hard when it's painful to move basically," Taylor said. " ... I want my leg to be healthy and it's just not."