Almost isn’t exclusive to horseshoes and hand grenades. It was applicable Thursday at Franklin High School as the Wildcats’ volleyball squad almost knocked off the 14-1 Elk Grove team.
In the end, Elk Grove found a way to control the action, particularly in the second and third games, to pull out a 22-25, 25-21, 25-15, 20-25 and 15-12 match victory. It put the Herd at 6-0 in the Delta League, keeping them one game in front of Jesuit.
Franklin’s vibrant coach Melody McCullough, whose team fell to 2-4 in the Delta, 7-9 overall, was smiling with the effort her boys put forth.
|Franklin's Melody McCullough|
“They played their hearts out,” McCullough said. “This was as good as they’ve played. We were all-covering, talking it up and they played with heart tonight.”
After opening the match competitively, Franklin went flat in the second game, then McCullough said she made a coaching error which she says cost the Wildcats the third game.
“I put the wrong number in my lineup and I had two middles in the front at the same time,” she admitted. “That’s my bad.”
In the unique substitution rules of volleyball, a coach has to list which position each player is placed game-by-game and the rotation of which players in the lineup shall substitute for another.
“I was hoping they would adjust,” McCullough continued. “There were doing lots of adjusting out there tonight, switching to places where they hadn’t played before.”
Loi Huynh and Blaze Mahe each led Franklin with four blocks and three kills apiece. Steve McCullough had three aces and 11 digs while Justin Daneluk had six kills and 17 digs. Jestin Kudlil had 14 digs.
In the fourth game, won by the Wildcats, 25-20, McCullough made a few adjustments and it sent the match into the deciding fifth game.
“I switched my middle hitters in order to get a better block. I also kept my right side hitter, who is a better blocker, on the left side in order to block their big hitter,” she explained. “So in essence, I switched my better blockers so they would block EG's best hitters.”
Thundering Herd coach Jill Smith was glad they walked away with a win.
|EG's Chukwudi Ikem, right, with a block|
“We had a really good game (Tuesday) against Monterey Trail and some of my younger players stepped up during that (match), so I started them and gave them the benefit because they pulled us out in the last (match),” Smith said. “They earned the spot.”
Smith said the Herd had to adjust to gain the upper hand in the second and third games.
“We were out of rotation a lot, it was lots of little things, errors, but (Franklin) played really great,” she said.
A force at the net was Chukwudi Ikem throughout the match, not only with several spikes, but blocking very effectively.
“He’s a new player, only playing for us two months,” Smith explained. “He’s a basketball player, so he has some natural ability to get up and do some good things for us.”
Even though the Herd sits atop the Delta League as they come close to the midway part of the league schedule, Smith says they have lots of work to do.
“We have a lot of room for improvement, but the one thing they aren’t lacking are heart and drive,” she said. “They won’t give up.”