By MIKE CAPSHAW
Bronson rallied from two sets down to beat Bell 3-2 in varsity volleyball action on Thursday.
The Lady Eagles were led by Melissa Nutt. She took over as server with her team trailing 14-12 in the third match and reeled off 13 consecutive points to send her team into celebration mode. Nutt then served to start the fourth match, and had Bronson up 11-1 before she was done. Bronson won the fourth and then the tiebreaker, 15-8, to stay unbeaten at 4-0 on the season.
“Melissa’s one of our go-to servers for sure,” said Bronson coach Dara Strickland. “She’s a senior player who’s been playing since seventh grade, so I know she’s going to perform on the court.”
Nutt was moved to setter against Bell after the Lady Eagles’ regular starter was out. They practiced the new lineup on Wednesday, but seemed out of sync in the first two matches against Bell. There were many unforced errors as Bell made plays. But the light came on in the third match, resulting in Bronson players making nice digs, saves and serves.
“They’re sending me to an early grave,” Strickland said. “I’m only 24, but they about killed me.”
Strickland about killed them during a timeout late in the second match and in the lockerroom before the third match. After dominating a struggling Hawthorne program 3-0 two nights earlier, Strickland knew her team may have trouble focusing.
“Our girls put (Hawthorne) away in three and they weren’t cocky, but they were kind of joking around at times,” Strickland said. “Then they come out in this game and I’m telling the girls, ‘FYI, I don’t know what Newberry has, but (Bell) beat Newberry. They’ve beat teams. We’ve beat teams. It’s going to be a match. They’re not going to lay down for us.’
“And we come out here and our hands weren’t screwed on straight.”
So in the locker room, Strickland got her point across that the “time is now to turn it on.” When they built a 9-1 lead to open the next game, Strickland said she had to keep her emotions hidden because she “knew they were going to” win.
In her first season as head coach, Strickland, a Bronson graduate, said she’s benefitted greatly from having her former coach, Sherry Shuler, helping out.
“I love having her on the bench to back me up on things and point out things that I may be missing,” Strickland said.
Nutt finished with 20 service points, including eight aces, and four kills. She wasn’t the only player to shine for the Lady Eagles as senior Tara McDaniel made several key digs and hustle plays by diving all over the court. Freshman Jasmine Parker led the team with seven assists while classmate Brittany Riley tied Nutt with a team-best four kills.
“Brittany is probably got the most powerful hitter on our team. She’s got that hit that you say, ‘Wow. That was a kill,’” Strickland said. “Melissa is a really consistent hitter and maybe our best all-around player, but when you see Brittany make that kill, that’s when you hear the crowd go, ‘Ohh!’”