BELLS — With only three days of practice and another for a scrimmage, just about every volleyball team that kicked off its season on Tuesday would probably have some things to work out.
For the Bells Lady Panthers, who brought back two-thirds of their roster, the unknown quantity wasn’t as hard to deal with.
“We do have a pretty experienced squad so the chemistry was still good,” Bells head coach Lisa Johnson said. “I was very pleased with what I saw.”
Faced with the prospect of giving momentum back to the Tioga Lady Bulldogs after falling behind by a big margin in Game 2, Bells showed its moxie with a rally that propelled it to a 25-20, 25-22, 25-18 victory in the season-opener.
Bella Smith had 12 kills and three blocks, Gabby Smith totaled three kills and seven digs, Cheyenne Floyd handed out 17 assists, Mia Moore collected 12 digs and Cheznie Hale put down five aces for Bells, which opens the Paris Chisum Tournament against New Boston at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“We’re really focused on being consistent,” Johnson said. “Making every touch a good ball, trying not to have those bad touches.”
Carly Hough had five kills, Kinsey Evans added four kills and Bekah Wineberg handed out 16 assists for Tioga, which opens the Princeton Tournament on Thursday.
The Lady Bulldogs looked to be a good spot to even the match at a game apiece. Hough and Nicole Hill were strong at the net and Haylie Dungan chipped in an ace as Tioga raced to a 10-2 lead.
A service error opened the door and the Lady Panthers walked right through it. Hale followed with her five aces and Tioga was suddenly clinging to a two-point advantage. The lead went back up to as many as five but the chance to break Bells’ momentum was gone.
The Lady Panthers then used a 7-0 run to go from down four to up three at 17-14.
Then it was Tioga’s turn to show some mettle with a surge that tied the frame at 18. Kassady Vandagriff’s block pulled the Lady Bulldogs even at 19 before Bella Smith had a kill and then stepped to the service line for a couple of aces.
Tioga had a last-gasp attempt and was down one before Gabby Smith knocked home a 50-50 ball and then landed a kill to close out the game.
“Early in the season when you see something like that, that’s a good sign,” Johnson said. “Knowing we played through it to come back, that’s a quality you want to have.”
Bells never trailed in Game 3 but after Tioga quickly fell behind 4-1, the Lady Bulldogs battled back to tie the score twice by trading points, the last at eight-all.
Bella Smith had three kills and a block at the front of a 6-0 run and when Vandagriff halted momentum with a block of her own, Hale and Kayton Arnold put down kills around a Floyd ace. Bella Smith followed with another kill and the Lady Panthers were able to finish off the sweep.
The teams opened the match trading runs. Bells went ahead quickly by scoring four of the first six points and then Tioga went in front at 6-5 on an ace by Hill.
Hough had back-to-back kills and a hitting error by the Lady Panthers allowed the Lady Bulldogs to go up by three. A quick 4-0 spurt put Bells back in front and it never trailed, although Tioga got within a point late.
Another four straight points, book-ended by kills from Floyd and Bella Smith, pushed Bells to a 17-12 advantage. Then the Lady Bulldogs collected themselves during a timeout and had the Lady Panthers out of rhythm.
Hough’s kill cut Tioga’s deficit to 19-18 but Bells didn’t give up the lead. The Lady Panthers never allowed the Lady Bulldogs to get that close again and a pair of errors at the net by Tioga handed Game 1 over to Bells.