It was — as Selbyville Middle School volleyball head coach Sally Craig and assistant coaches Lisa Stetler and Bill Croal would put it — bittersweet.
While the team got the 2-0 win over Millsboro on Monday, Oct. 24, they also said goodbye to the eighth-grade class — many of whom had helped launch the program as seventh-graders last season — during the Indians’ final home game and on what was their Eighth-Grade Recognition Night.
“This group — it’s a special group of girls,” said Craig after the win. “They’re very dedicated and very disciplined. We leave every day with smiles on our face.”
“To have that many girls in eighth grade that we’ve connect with that are going to move up, it’s kind of bittersweet. They’ve grown so much,” added Stetler. “You can have the worst day at work and then come to practice, and just end up having the best day.”
After the pre-game festivities, the night’s palpable emotion showed early in the first set, with the undefeated Indians taking a little longer than usual to get into their groove.
They’d get back into it eventually, however, rolling to wins of 25-10 and 25-11 over the Golden Knights to improve to 9-0 on the season and 19-0 since the launch of the program in 2015. During their run this season, they’ve yet to even lose a single set.
Co-captains Brandi Mitchell and Raychel Ehlers led the team on the night, as they have all season, with Mitchell racking up 10 aces and 17 total service points, and Ehlers finishing with six aces, 10 service points and six kills.
“We definitely didn’t start out as well as we usually do,” said Ehlers of the team’s performance on the night. “We had to step up our game a little.”
“It was an emotional day for them,” added Craig. “After that first game, we said, ‘We need a new team out there.’ I think they came around in the second game.”
Aside from the added emotions, the Indians also had to contend with the Knights’ underhand serving style, which they had yet to see this season.
“Usually, we’re used to overhand serves, so it was a little bit of an adjustment,” Mitchell explained. “I think we really handled it well.”
Ehlers younger sister, Camryn Ehlers, led the team in assists in the game, finishing with 10, to go along with six service points. Nicole Woody wasn’t far off, with nine assists and five service points, and Alex Johnson finished with eight service points and two kills.
After the friendly-rivalry match, the teams showed some sportsmanship by posing for a group photo together.
While the loss dropped the Golden Knights to 3-6 on the season as they continue to lift the second-year program off the ground, the Indians were looking to put together their second straight undefeated season in a road game against Delmar on Wednesday, Oct 26, (after Coastal Point press time).
While capping another undefeated season with a win in that game is their current goal, their success this season has been attributed to not looking too far ahead.
“We take it one game at a time,” said Craig. “We’ve done that all season.”
“We still have to play hard against Delmar,” added Raychel Ehlers. “We have to come out and play our best, play to our level.”
The state tournament, to be held in Smyrna, is set to begin on Friday, Nov. 4.