By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
If Edric Poitier has anything to do with it, Bluefield State volleyball is on the brink of a turnaround.
He had a lot of work to do, as the Lady Blues lost their 85th consecutive game on Wednesday evening, dropping a 25-7, 25-8, 25-13 decision to Emory & Henry at the Ned Shott Gymnasium.
“I think this is our last year of our struggling,” Poitier said. “I will go on record that this will be our last year struggling.”
Bluefield State (0-16), which last won a game against Concord in September of 2010, finished 1-29 that season, and followed that up with marks of 0-25, 0-24 and have lost 16 straight this year.
“We are still working on it,” Poitier said. “We have got something to work with. We are just trying to get through this season, hopefully next year we will be a force to be reckoned with.”
The 19-woman Wasps (12-8) were led by freshman Hannah Doss, who had eight kills in the match. Nicole Tesh added four kills and three blocks, while Maleah Neely had 11 assists, and libero Kelly Mae Kerlin added three aces.
“We had a good offensive game, we have a lot of players that are very aggressive,” Emory & Henry head coach Dan Clotfelter said. “We actually set very well tonight so we were able to get off on our offense.”
Bluefield State never led at any point in the match, but did managed to tie the score at 1-1 in the second set. However, the Wasps played their game, attacking the net and taking advantage of errors and a lack of depth for the Lady Blues.
“It is something we have been working on is making sure that we stay in our rhythm no matter what the other team is doing,” Clotfelter said. “If we get free balls we still have to run our offense in the same speed.
“If they make a mistake we have to be ready if we get the opportunity to play offense so it was good to see for us to see that.”
Doss had four kills in the opening set, as the Wasps jumped out to a 4-0 lead, followed that with a 9-2 run keyed by five straight service points from Hannah Stewart, and then finished it off by winning nine of the final 10 points.
It didn’t get any better for short-handed Bluefield State, which has just 11 players on its roster, and one of those was out for this game.
Bluefield State was paced by hard-hitting Leandrea Armbrister with eight kills, while Ashley Reed added 10 digs and seven assists. Princeton product Kendria Perkins contributed three kills and six digs.
Poitier inherited the current team, although he has brought in the hard-hitting Armbrister during his two-month tenure at Bluefield State. Other locally-produced players includes Kristen Hutchinson from Bluefield and Chelsey Dobbs, who played at River View.
“There is a little inconsistency with our settings so it can be difficult for hitters to make adjustments, but we are working on it,” Poitier said. “Our defense was a little slow tonight because our libero was missing so we had a different libero tonight.
“We missed her tonight, but we had to make do with what we have got.”
Bluefield State made numerous unforced errors in the middle set, but the Blues were within 10-5 when the Wasps went on a 7-0 run to pull away, finishing off the set with five service points from Taylor Locke.
Clotfelter, who has 10 freshman on a squad that includes four players from Southwest Virginia and another three from Northeast Tennessee, is used to a small roster, having had just 11 players last season.
“It is good we got all 19 in the game today, that is tough to do sometimes so everybody got a chance to play and played well,” said Clotfelter, a 1992 graduate of Georgia Tech. “We only had 11 last year on our roster and the toughest thing is practice, it is hard to have a very good practice when you don’t have depth to do 6 on 6 so that is probably what they are going through right now.
“If they get more depth it will be easier for them to run practices.”
With Emory & Henry going deep into the bench in the final set, the Lady Blues were able to reach double digits in points, but it was far too late as Giles product Maggie Boggess had seven straight service points to extend the lead from 7-4 to 14-4.
The Lady Blues did fight off elimination, going on a late 3-1 run, but the Wasps finished it off to win for a third straight game.
Clotfelter said the key to Bluefield State turning its fortunes around is recruiting, which has definitely worked for his Wasps. It also helps to have stability on the coaching staff, which also hasn’t occurred for the Blues.
“It is his first year, this is my third year here and we have a big freshman class,” he said. “It is just time on the job and learning all the different high schools and different clubs and starting to be out there more often and people know you.
“That is the key is longevity. You need to have some talented coaching and you need to learn how to recruit, but the biggest thing is be there long enough for it to work.”
Bluefield State returns to action on Friday at Concord.
—Contact Brian Woodson at email@example.com