HEBRON – Most teams have to wait until playoff time to see how they react under pressure, but Tuesday’s season opener between the Faith Lutheran Saints and the Alden-Hebron Giants had all the drama and pressure of a postseason match.
After a few lead changes, Alden-Hebron took the first set, 25-14, and Faith Lutheran answered in the second, 25-21. Midway through the third set, the Giants opened up a 19-8 lead and looked ready to capture the victory.
Through outstanding serving by the Saints’ Hailee Haldeman and great ball control, the Giants lead soon vanished. With the score tied at 24, Faith Lutheran continued to make clutch shots and completed the comeback, 27-25.
Although taking such a tough loss in the first match of the season was not in the gameplan, Alden-Hebron (0-1) coach Carrie Recard and assistant coach Sarah Kraft were encouraged by their team’s improved double blocking and their adaption to a new rotation. But what really stood out were the team’s intangibles.
“I think, as the first match of the season, the positive takeaway is the dynamic that we have on this team,” Kraft said. “They played with heart, energy.”
According to Recard, the Giants will now work on improving communication in the front row in the coming matches.
“They played hard,” Recard said. “We just have a few things that we need to work out.”
Faith Lutheran (1-0) coach Ramon Borrero also had to navigate a first-match learning curve Tuesday night. After spending 35 years coaching in his native Puerto Rico, he found some aspects of the game a little different than what he was used to.
The Saints were occasionally out of rotation, and the Giants received an extra point early in the match when Borrero took one too many timeouts. Despite those early issues, the Saints settled in and used good ball control and passing to their advantage.
“If you have the ability at the key points to have really good ball control from passers to servers, you will have an open door to win the match,” Borrero said.
The two teams now look forward to the rest of the season with specific goals in mind.
For Borrero and Faith Lutheran, a program with only 17 players and one senior, the goal is to get to get to the next level. Recard and Alden-Hebron hope to improve at every position. After Tuesday night’s match, both teams know what they need to do to achieve those goals.