After a slow start to the season, the Buccaneers have picked up steam.
After a season opening sweep of Pine Ridge on Aug. 21, Mainland High School’s volleyball team fell into a rut, losing their next three matches. In those three matches — losses to DeLand, New Smyrna Beach and Father Lopez — the Buccaneers failed to win a set. But since the defeat at the hands of Father Lopez on Aug. 29, the Buccaneers have been on a role.
Mainland, featuring one of its youngest rosters since head coach Lauren Valle took over the program three seasons ago, has four of its last five matches and have swept its last two opponents in Seabreeze and Matanzas.
The Buccaneers have been led by their freshmen: libero Bella Truxall, who Valle calls “the spine of the team” and hitter Alexa Wilson.
“We’re very young even though we do have some older players — they’ve really only played a little bit and they started really late in life,” Valle said. “So, it’s really nice that we’ve got some of these younger girls. The older ones actually look to them for some leadership because they’ve been playing for so long.”
The Buccaneers started slow in their sweep of Matanzas on Sept. 12 at Mainland High School, a trend so far this season. The Pirates led throughout much of the first set before the Buccaneers took over. After taking the lead for good, the Buccaneers dominated, winning the first set 25-21, the second set 25-14 and the third set 25-17.
“We worked really hard in practice to improve what we’ve been struggling with,” said Wilson, who slammed down a team-high 10 kills against Matanzas. “We usually start slow, but we usually pick it up. We get really hyped, and it helps us win.”
As the Buccaneers delve deeper into their schedule, Valle can’t help but yearn for rematches against the teams Mainland lost to earlier in the year. The Buccaneers won’t get another shot at DeLand, arguably the best team on their schedule, but they will get another shot at New Smyrna Beach, who the Buccaneers face at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at home.
“I think playing some more competitive teams has been key for us,” Valle said. “It’s really bringing out the multidimensional player in some of them. They love to compete. In years past, that hasn’t always been the case. But this group has really dedicated themselves to working on their mindset, and it’s showing tremendously.”
Added Wilson: “We set a goal at the beginning of the season to improve the program. We’re on a mission to win as many games as we can.”