TRACY - When the Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton volleyball teams opened their 2013 seasons in Tracy on Friday, they were on opposite ends of the experience spectrum.
One team started four seniors and two All-Area selections from a year ago. The other saw three players, the eldest a sophomore, make their varsity debuts. Yet it was the team populated with underclassmen which overwhelmed its opponent on Friday with TMB sweeping WWG 3-0 by scores of 25-16, 25-11, 25-17.
Gabbie Gervais, Sydney Lanoue and Jessie Nelson each saw their first action at the varsity level for the Panthers and each made a quick impression.
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton middle hitter Jessie Nelson, right, tries to split a block attempt by Westbrook-Walnut Grove’s Dayna Comnick, left, and Cassidy Mischke, middle, during the second set of TMB’s 3-0 win on Friday in Tracy. Nelson led the Panthers with 12 kills in the match.
Gervais, a freshman, was 8-for-8 from the service line with a pair of aces and also contributed 26 set assists for TMB.
Lanoue, just an eighth-grader, pounded down six kills in the match, while Nelson, a sophomore middle hitter, led the Panthers with 12 kills and three ace blocks.
"We had an eighth-grader, a ninth-grader and a 10th-grader that had never played before, but I thought they played great. They've played a lot of volleyball so that didn't concern me so much. I just thought that the pressure of a varsity game might get to them a little bit," TMB head coach Katie Gervais said. "But they just did a nice job. They just didn't get rattled and that was nice to see out of them.
TMB 3, WWG 0
Serving (good-att-aces): WWG-Elizabeth Woelber 10-10-1, Dayna Comnick 9-9-1, Alexa Byers 5-5-0, Cassidy Mischke 4-4-1; TMB-Sara Stoneberg 19-19-4, Gabbie Gervais 8-8-2, Sammie Gervais 5-5-2.
Kills: WWG-Comnick 14, Woelber 4, Mischke 2; TMB-Jessie Nelson 12, Kassidy Przymus 7, S. Gervais 6, Sydney Lanoue 6.
Digs: WWG-Mady Johnson 5, Comnick 5, Woelber 5; TMB-N/A
Set Assists: WWG-Abby Herding 22; TMB-G. Gervais 26.
Blocks: WWG-Morgan Dennistoun 3 1/2, Madison Takle 2 1/2, Jordaan Joel 2; TMB-Nelson 3, S. Gervais 2.
"I think our older girls really kind of helped them out and guided them through that. I thought it was just a great team effort."
On the flip side, WWG head coach Cathy Baumann said that her team wasn't quite able to get over the nerves of their first match of the season.
"A lot of nervous energy. All day today in the hallways they had this look," Baumann said. "And that was kind of my nervousness; not if we could play with them (TMB), but we have those new girls coming into this. I had a few talks with them and they just couldn't seem to get it out of their heads."
The nerves showed strongest in the second set when TMB rattled off 12 straight points to start. Strong serving, aces and errors helped the Panthers cruise to a 2-0 lead after sharp hitting lifted TMB in the opening set.
"We were never really focused enough to carry out our plan. If we need to play defense, we need to play defense," Baumann said. "Our heads were never in one place. We were always looking to the next play before we were finished with what we're doing."
The Chargers did have their bright spots as senior outside hitter and 2012 all-area selection Dayna Comnick had a game-high 14 kills. Middle hitters Morgan Dennistoun and Jordan Joel combined for 5 1/2 blocks, while senior Madison Takle chipped in with 2 1/2 blocks.
Part of the struggles for WWG can be attributed to the added pressures of playing from behind. The Chargers trailed throughout the entirety of the night.
WWG came closest to clawing its way back against the Panthers in the third set. After falling behind 15-6, Comnick hammered home three kills while a pair of unforced errors and a block brought the Chargers within four points at 17-13.
They would get no closer, however, as three unforced errors and five TMB kills brought the match to a close.
Gervais credited her team's aggressive serving with helping the Panthers get out early and stay ahead in each of the three sets.
"I thought we served aggressive enough to keep them out of system because when Comnick is in system, she does a nice job," Gervais said. "I think our serving was really key tonight. It was huge. Some people who maybe aren't our best servers had a great night tonight. I thought Sara (Stoneberg) got back there and to serve that string of serves, she just did a great job."
Stoneberg was a perfect 19 of 19 while serving and recorded four aces. Sammie Gervais was 5-for-5 with two aces and six kills for TMB. Kassidy Przymus added seven kills.
WWG (0-1 overall) resumes play on Tuesday at Lincoln HI, but Baumann said Monday's practice will be spent on positioning.
"What I told the girls was we just weren't in position was a lot of it. We were halfway there," Baumann said. "We weren't setting up for their hits. Monday is going to be a lot of defense."
TMB (1-0), meanwhile, is off until after Labor Day, traveling to Renville County West for their first Camden Conference match of the season on Sept. 3.