Despite Tuesday’s tough loss to Valdosta State, ASU’s Jillian Anderson led the Lady Rams with eight kills and three blocks. (email@example.com)
ALBANY -- Albany State volleyball coach Robert Skinner expected Valdosta State to be one of his toughest opponents this season.
Skinner just didn't expect his Lady Rams to come out so flat against their in-state rivals Tuesday evening at HPER Gym.
Winners of the two of its last three matches, Albany State (9-7) was swept in straight sets by the Lady Blazers (10-7), 25-12, 25-19, 25-18.
"I knew that we would have our work cut out for us, but I knew that if we played extremely hard and not make a lot of mistakes then we could probably win," Skinner said.
Skinner than added: "But I knew we were going to have some problems when we started making mistakes."
Valdosta State snapped a three-match losing streak, and VSU coach Sia Poyer said he was surprised by the amount of errors the Lady Rams made, especially in the passing game.
"It's always tough to play (Albany State), because they are always athletic," Poyer said. "I know whenever we come here, we are going to get a battle. I really expected (Albany State) to pass better than they did."
The Lady Rams made 16 errors and had trouble handling Valdosta State's hitters, which tallied 42 kills, compared to just 24 for Albany State.
But there were still some bright spots for the Lady Rams, including the play of Jillian Anderson, a sophomore from Athens. Anderson had team highs of eight kills and three blocks and committed just one error.
"(Anderson) definitely had an advantage with her vertical jump, being able to see the court and put the ball in the court at different times," Skinner said about his 5-foot-7 middle hitter. "We just didn't get her the ball enough times. If we were able to get her the ball more times, she would have been more effective."
Valdosta State ran away with the first two sets, but Anderson's four kills in the third set gave the Lady Rams some late momentum. Albany State took a 15-13 lead in the third as Sharme Ridley and Tiffany Butler came alive at the net, complementing Anderson's play.
"When it is close like that, I am just trying to calm myself down and telling myself to just get a kill and keep running the ball," Anderson said. "We just kept making simple mistakes, and that will all get fixed in practice."
Those mistakes allowed Valdosta State to win 12 of the final 15 points and walk away winners of a match that took just one hour. Albany State's only three points down the stretch were all kills by Anderson.
"Towards the end of that last game, it seemed like we kind of dropped a little bit," said Ridley, a freshman from Peachtree City who had six kills and three block assists. "It was like we were giving up. I was like, 'What happened? Our mood totally changed.' "
The Lady Rams will have plenty of opportunities to redeem themselves in the next week with three SIAC matches in a span of five days. ASU, third in the SIAC East Division with a 6-2 conference record, plays at Paine College on Thursday, at Claflin University on Friday and at conference-leading Benedict College on Monday.
"We play three tough conference opponents next, and not making errors is the lesson you take from (Tuesday's loss to Valdosta State)," Skinner said. "You have to go out and work. Passing was the most ineffective area (Tuesday night), and that has always been our forte. Ball handling and errors are the things that beat you in volleyball."
Junior Jennifer Johnson led ASU defensively with a match-high 13 digs, while Desiree Hardy and Kenya Jolicoeur led the Lady Rams in assists with 11 and eight, respectively. Also for ASU, senior Sabrina Garcia had four kills and two digs, Tiffany Butler had four kills and one dig and Amber Gatlin had one kill and three digs.