Volleyballs were flying all over the Evans High School gymnasium Tuesday night. The Lady Knights landed enough of them on Lakeside High School's side of the net to produce an Evans win over the Lady Panthers in a 2-0 victory.
Evans senior Laura Middleton led the way with seven kills in game two.
"She's constantly improving and finding what's necessary to win," coach C.C. Armstrong said of the starter. "She's all about the scoring. She can find the open spot on the court and put it right there."
Middleton was the hot hitter Tuesday, and her timely kills gave Evans the necessary momentum to ward off a late Lakeside rally. Not all the flying volleyballs were landing where they were supposed to during the match. Because of the sport's unique format of two matches played side-by-side simultaneously, errant volleyballs from the adjacent court became a problem. In Tuesday's Evans/Lakeside match, a loose ball stopped play several times - at least once with consequences.
"Brittany (Gray) was serving for us and had done so for five plays," Armstrong said. "Her next serve went straight into the net, but another ball came over (from the adjacent court) and the ref called for a replay. It worked out just right that time."
Ultimately, none of Tues-day's matches were won or lost because of the errant volleyballs, although the large number of interruptions in the Lakeside/Evans match prompted head official Michael Johnson to call for volunteers to stand between the courts and stop the loose volleyballs.
Johnson, who has been officiating volleyball matches for 16 years, said there were no problems after that, but he's seen an errant volleyball do some damage in the past.
"I've seen it really throw off the rhythm of a game," Johnson said. "It's not that bad when you've got two games going at once. The problem comes when teams are warming up on one court with balls going everywhere. That's when it's the worst."
Only one high school gym in Columbia County is set up to fully handle such a problem. Augusta Preparatory Day School's new Boardman Athletic Center was built with a retractable net that divides the two courts and stops loose volleyballs. Most other teams station volunteer parents between the courts when the situation arises. Though a net and parent volunteers have helped to minimize the problem, most local volleyball coaches and players just accept it.
"It does get a little bit frustrating," Lakeside senior Carol Skenes said. "It has the same effect as calling a time out. It can throw you off your rhythm, but it's just a part of the game."
The win over Lakeside, and later over Burke County, improved Evans' record to 3-0.
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