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Greyhounds off to strong start in league play

Gaston girls win their first three league matches before falling at home to Neah-Kah-Nie last week

If the Gaston volleyball team can iron out a few details, this season could turn from a good one into a great one.

After starting out the season 3-4, the Greyhounds enjoyed a 4-1 stretch over the middle of this month and opened up Northwest League play with a 3-0 record before dropping a five-set match to Neah-Kah-Nie at home last Thursday.

That meant the Hounds ended the week at 7-6 overall and tied with Faith Bible for second place in the league standings, one game behind Vernonia.

Two days earlier, Gaston had defeated Delphian, the reigning league champion, in straight sets on the road, and the team looked to be on track for more of the same against the Pirates after winning the first two sets.

But the Hounds dropped the third set 23-25 and could not recover their winning ways in suffering their first Northwest League defeat.

Gaston coach Maddie Anderson likened the contest to a basketball game where things just aren’t quite working.

“In ... basketball, there are games when your shot just does not fall, and so you just can’t get into a rhythm,” Anderson explained last week. “And that’s kind of the way last night played out. We just couldn’t find a rhythm and our setting was off and our offense had a hard time getting going.

“Last night wasn’t our best performance as a team, but it was definitely a good learning opportunity and something we can move forward from.”

It was also a study in contrast to two nights earlier, when Gaston knocked off Delphian on its home court. Anderson said the Dragons are not quite the same team they were a year ago, but still, they are the reigning league champs, and the Hounds brought their A-game, one Anderson is hoping to see more of as the team heads into the latter portion of the season.

“The girls had an awesome game, played really well, came away with some impressive stats,” Anderson said. “Tuesday’s kind of our ideal. It’s what we’d like to build from.”

That consistency should be key in a league that is demonstrating quite a bit of parity thus far except for perhaps at the very top and bottom of the standings. Most of the teams in the Northwest are floating within a game or two either way of .500.

Anderson tabbed Vernonia and Faith Bible as the ones to beat and her Greyhounds will see both foes in short order — Gaston travels to Vernonia on Thursday before entertaining Faith Bible on Tuesday.

This year’s Gaston roster features an unusual lineup of all seniors and freshmen. Anderson said that the squad starts six seniors and one freshman, and that the youngsters are holding their own.

“This year’s freshmen are, in terms of skill, they’re a lot further along than a lot of the incoming classes,” Anderson noted. “Obviously they’re not at the same level, but they hold their own. They compete pretty well. It’s fun to see.”

One of the seniors, Haylie Davis, is playing all the way around and Anderson called her “our go-to person,” a player who is averaging roughly 10 to 12 kills per match. And Anderson has been encouraged by the progress being made by the Hounds’ new middle blocker, Charity Hall, one of five first-year players on the roster.

“She is starting to step up,” Anderson said. “We’re seeing some really big improvement in her both offensively and defensively, so she’s made a big difference to the team this year overall.”

That improved play could be important in Gaston’s stretch run. The top three teams in the conference — decided in part by league playoffs — will advance to the Class 2A state playoffs. The Hounds are trying to be one of them.

“We have a really good team this year,” Anderson said. “Our overall goal is just consistency, playing to our strength, making sure that we highlight those things every game instead of having it (be) off-and-on, where mistakes can be made.

“We are hoping for a solid performance, and our goal’s obviously playoffs, but we’ll see as the season progresses.”


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