David Gardner liked some of the things he saw from his Truman High School volleyball team in a 25-21, 25-20 loss to host Blue Springs Thursday night.
But the first-year coach knows that there are plenty of areas that need to be fine-tuned.
“Everybody played hard, and that’s important,” Gardner said after the Patriots’ season opener. “But we made a lot of errors. Most of them were little things we can clean up, but we made too many errors.
“It’s the first night and there were some jitters. But I believe we can become a solid team.”
Everything about the Patriots seemed new as coach Denise Craig has retired and all-state standout and former Evelyn Gates Award winner Lexi Hart, who is now playing at the University of Minnesota, and standout Bri Savidge have graduated.
“It was different out there, that’s for sure,” said junior outside hitter Tapanga Johnson. “We have some big shoes to fill without Lexi and Bri. And it’s different without Coach Craig.
“But Coach Gardner is a really smart coach and we all like him. He’s a lot more quiet on the bench. And he lets us serve from wherever we want – and we like that – we like the added responsibility.
“We wanted to do better for him tonight. We’ll keep working hard, because I think we can be a good team. Mistakes hurt us, that’s for sure, but we never gave up.”
Truman made two late runs in each game, but the Wildcats held on to improve to 2-0.
Outside hitter Brooke Reed led the Wildcats with seven kills and tied teammate Aliyah Bello with 10 digs. Maddie Wingert added six kills.
“Brooke has one of the highest volleyball IQs of any player I’ve ever coached,” Wildcats coach Katie Grusing said. “She knows what’s unfolding out there before it happens. She never leaves the court and there are going to be a lot of matches where she is first – or near the top – for kills and digs. She is going to be an important part of our team this season.”
Reed said the Wildcats were able to capitalize on Truman’s errors.
“We took advantage of every mistake they made,” Reed said. “They were a good team, and you can tell they’re going to get better as the season goes on. They had that (6-2) run at the end of the first game, and we didn’t allow that momentum to carry over into the second game.”
Blue Springs had a 23-15 lead and eventually claimed a 25-21 win in the opening set.
“We came out and got that 9-3 lead in the second game, and they made another run at the end (of the second game), but we were able to hold them off and get the win,” Reed said.
The Wildcats were dominant on the front row with Reed and Wingert leading the way.
“I think our blocking on the front row was important,” Wingert said. “And we started the game with a lot of positive energy and were able to maintain it all night.”