SPRINGFIELD – Behind 19 aces, the Ware girls volleyball team defeated Paulo Freire in straight sets (25-20, 25-7, 25-21) Thursday afternoon.
Lilly Kibbe, who secured a team-high eight aces including two vital stretches in the first and third sets, led the way for Ware.
With the opening set deadlocked at 19, Kibbe rattled off three consecutive aces to build a lead for Ware that it did not give up, scoring six of the final seven points to take the set 25-20.
An early 5-4 lead for Ware in the third set was expanded to 9-4 following four more aces in a row for the senior outside hitter.
“It feels really good because you know you’re helping out a lot,” said Kibbe regarding her success as a server. “Especially with aces, your team doesn’t have to do anything.”
Ware head coach Don Swarts commended Kibbe for her serving abilities, as well as Morgan Saletnik, who finished with four aces.
“I thought we served well. Lilly served real well, Morgan ended up serving very well,” Swarts said. “I think that was a difference, finding the open spots and making them move. In our last game we were just kind of serving to the opponent so we kind of worked on the serving over practice there.”
Prior to pulling away in the first set, Ware let the Panthers hang around, allowing an 8-1 run to fall behind 16-14. Both Kibbe and Swarts acknowledged the team’s habit of taking on the mindset that they’re on their way to an easy win, and thus keeping the opponent in the match.
“I think at the beginning we kind of struggled because we kind of got ahead of ourselves thinking this was gonna be easy.” Kibbe said. “We started getting ahead of ourselves but we relaxed, played as hard as we could, had a few mistakes but we got ourselves together and made it through.”
“We have a tendency to relax a little bit when we get a lead and we think we’re gonna whoop everyone,” Swarts added. “That’s something that’s always been an ongoing issue with a lot of teams but us in particular. We get a 10-point lead, look at the opponent and say ‘OK the game’s over’ and next thing you know it’s tied up.”
Following the narrow first set victory, the second was a different story as Ware went the entire set without allowing Paulo Freire to score two consecutive points more than once.
“The start of the game we got out ahead and maybe we got a little too big-headed there,” Swarts said. “It’s always good to get out to an early lead, the confidence is up there and kind of takes the opponent off their game too if they’re a little nervous about falling too far behind.”
“We’ve played for a while together, so we’ve kind of figured out our ways to work with each other and calm each other down,” Kibbe added.
For Kibbe and the rest of her teammates, jumping out to an early advantage provided Ware with an opportunity to change the game plan and attempt different plays.
“We could definitely be more aggressive once we relaxed and once we got ahead,” she said. “We were able to play more aggressive and test ourselves rather than test our opponent.”
With parents and other spectators unable to watch the game in the gymnasium as a result of coronavirus rules modifications, Swarts admitted it has had an affect on his team through their first two games of a shortened season.
“Second game of the season with the COVID rules and the lack of spectators and a little bit of noise I think it’s kind of throwing the girls off,” he said. “The excitement of playing or the thrill of victory is a little bit different nowadays with the limited people in the gym, it’s kind of quiet.”
Ware will look to move above .500 when they battle Pioneer Valley Christian Academy on Oct. 15 at 5:15 p.m., while the Panthers take on Easthampton on the same day at 4:00 p.m.