ELIZABETHTOWN — One week into the volleyball season, East Bladen is getting a stern resiliency test.
The Lady Eagles of co-coaches Sara Ward and Danielle Hatcher were reduced to six available players in their season opener, then faced Three Rivers Conference title contender Whiteville for its home and league opener. They split the matches, rallying dramatically at Hobbton in five sets on Tuesday and falling decisively in three sets to the Wolfpack.
“We have a lot of players out that hurt us,” said junior Ruth Ward after the 25-14, 25-14, 25-9 setback to Whiteville. “We have a lot of skill. We could have done better.”
The Lady Eagles did two nights earlier when they finished with six players following an injury to junior Lila McDuffie in the second set. East Bladen’s 25-15, 23-25, 17-25, 25-19, 15-9 triumph included 27 service points from Ward and 25 from junior Lorna Mendell.
Already missing were junior Abbie Cross and sophomore Kayleigh Raynor.
“The girls just have a tremendous amount of confidence in each other,” Ward said before the first serve against Whiteville. “It was a great comeback.”
Ward said there was sadness when McDuffie went out.
“But I knew we could pull through,” Ward said. “We had to apply our skills. We were so excited to start our season with a win.”
Against the Wolfpack, few breaks went to the hosts. Whiteville was skilled in placement shots during rallies, stayed out of the Lady Eagles’ net blocking and created double-figure leads quickly in each set.
“Whiteville has a great team, and our girls have skills,” Hatcher said. “But we’re changing positions every game because of injuries. We don’t have our set rotation, so we’re still getting used to each other.”
Sophomore Katie Evans, left, and senior Sarah Johnson ready for a block against Whiteville on Thursday.