TEMPLETON — The Atascadero Greyhounds and Templeton Eagles girls volleyball teams squared off for the first of three meetings this season with the initial installment being held inside the Eagles Nest and the Eagles won the game 3-1. It was a whiteout night for the Templeton student section which turned the Tuesday night crowd into something that looked like a Sunday afternoon group of Wimbledon zealots after four espresso shots.
Both the Eagles and the Greyhounds enter this season surrounded by a little mystery as they each graduated key seniors but it’s the Eagles who said goodbye to nearly their entire team, graduating nine seniors, and their core group in Lauren Reeves, Cheyenne Rice, Jena Kelly and Camryn Roth but have still started the season 2-0.
“We’ve got two returners and a bunch of first-time varsity,” Templeton head coach Cameron Schaffer said after the game. “So it’s — there is a lot of growing pains for sure but I like the start that we have gotten off to, Morro Bay and Atascadero are two tough teams. So it is good that we are able to do that not only from a moral standpoint but also to get our confidence up going forward.”
The Greyhounds graduated their setter in Natalie DeRose and most of their height upfront in both Hannah Hagy and Stephanie Monson but did come into this season returning Kylee Degnan and Mackenzie Wright for their third year contributing to the varsity. Wright recently sustained an injury and did not play against the Eagles but was in attendance cheering on her team.
The Hounds have been up and down in their return to play losing their first game to St. Joseph in straight sets and winning their second game against Pioneer Valley 3-1 before dropping Tuesday’s game in Templeton.
This was the first matchup of three between the two teams and this was the most meaningless of the two with it not counting toward Mountain League play, but with the budding rivalry growing steam in its second year the bleachers were pleasantly full.
While the Eagles won the game pretty handily it was well played on both sides. The Hounds found themselves within arms’ reach of the lead in all of the games but could not finish. Atascadero had a 20-16 lead in the first set and had taken most of the air out of the crowd until Templeton came charging back ending the game on a 9-1 run to take the first set 25-21.
“I think our serving was really tough,” Schaffer said. “Yeah, we made some errors here and there but I think we kept the pressure on. Our defense really picked up, our blocking picked up and when we needed to get points we found ways. I think it was a good team effort and great support tonight from the crowd as well, that helped.”
However, with the momentum against them, the Hounds battled back after falling behind early to tie the next game at 12. The second game was played in runs and each team made a couple but Atascadero used theirs last and tied up the match 1-1 winning game two 25-23.
The Eagles took the next to games and they manufactured points when they needed them most. Sophomore captain and setter Asia Pollina was orchestrating the offense and sprinkling in the occasional dump to the corner of the court whenever she saw fit.
Defensively both teams played well as several rallies went over the net enough times to get the crowd “oooh-ing” and “ahh-ing.”
“Because we don’t have quite as powerful an offense as we did last year we’re trying to be that smart team, finding the holes and making teams to think and forcing them to earn their points.” Schaffer said. “So, forcing them to make plays to beat us and I think we are off to a good start with that so we just have to continue that especially when we start league because a lot of the teams in our league this year are just getting their last year so it is going to be tough. We are going to play Atascadero two more times and those ones count for league.”
The Eagles finished in second place in the Mountain League last year and ended the season 14-6 after a slow start.
The Hounds started off the season on fire a year ago opening 10-1 before running into the Mountain League where they went 5-7 placing them fourth.
Atascadero will play their home opener on Sept. 5 against Morro Bay and the Eagles won't be home again until Sept. 10 against Orcutt Academy.