By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Female Tigers were on the prowl on Thursday night at the Princeton Senior High School gymnasium.
They just weren’t moving fast enough for Princeton volleyball coach Leslie Graham whose squad defeated Montcalm 25-13, 25-15, and later stopped Liberty 25-10, 25-18.
“We tend to play slower against slower teams. Montcalm has gotten a lot better, but when we go to Charleston the teams are a lot faster and it seems like we do what everybody else does,” Graham said. “I give a lot of credit to (Montcalm), they have got a lot better since the last time we played them.
“We just weren’t moving and we have been working on moving and all of a sudden we don’t move.”
Princeton never trailed in the opening game, but withstood six ties and four lead changes to pull away in the final game against the Generals, which showed potential for a Class A school playing a AAA squad.
“We have been playing some tough teams here lately because around here you can’t play anybody but AAA or AA schools and they have hung tough with them,” Montcalm head coach Loressa Bouldin said. “We are working hard, and trying to make adjustments as we go.
“They have really adjusted well to the whole shifting and the whole coaching atmosphere and different things like that and I am really proud of them. Our goal is to go upstate and we are working on it.”
Princeton was led against Montcalm by Taylor Murphy, who had 11 kills, while Kaleigh Barker added seven service points, five aces and five kills. Haley Conner dished out 18 assists and McKenzi Barnett contributed 11 points, three aces and three kills.
“We will get better,” said Graham, prior to playing Liberty. “That is our plan and hopefully when we play Liberty we won’t stand around and watch.”
Delaney Najar didn’t, leading Princeton (17-10) past Liberty with eight kills and eight digs. Other contributors for the Tigers were Taylor Hamm (13 assists), Conner (19 assists), Barnett (7 kills) and Murphy (6 kills).
Both Najar and Murphy used their height and leaping ability to prowl around the nets and look for opportunities to slam the ball to the other side.
“I think both of them should be on every night and if they are not it is bad for us,” Graham said. “They are both seniors, they should be killing the ball every time. Taylor has improved a lot this year, if she could have done that the last three years it would have been awesome.
“Delaney is very consistent. She is generally our leading kill-stat leader so I count on both of them to do a lot of the hitting.”
Alexis Mabe had four digs in Montcalm’s loss to Princeton, while Jill Bailey added three. Brittany Carroll was busy as a hitter, as was fellow senior Leslie Kelley, junior Autumn Bouldin and sophomore Katelyn Dunford.
Montcalm, which lost to Liberty in two games later in the evening, plays a mean schedule, but the first-year coach thinks it will pay off for the Generals.
“Absolutely, all the single A teams we have played we have either beat or been right there with them,” Loressa Bouldin said. “That is the most important thing, and playing the tougher teams is only going to make us better.”
Princeton feels much the same, but Graham is looking for improvement as sectionals loom in just over a month.
“We have to get moving and get a lot of confidence,” Graham said. “When you go to the sectionals you have got Greenbrier East and Woodrow and Shady and Oak Hill and all those teams are good teams.
“Hopefully we are going to build confidence and improve and get better at all areas of the game, hitting, passing, serving, everything.”
Erica Davis (7 kills) and Dakota Bell (4 kills) led Princeton to a 25-15, 25-15 junior varsity victory over the Generals.
—Contact Brian Woodson