All-Delco Sharay Barnes had a monster game to lead Strath Haven to a win over Garnet Valley. But what other factors helped the Panthers knock off the previously-unbeaten Jaguars?
TIMES STAFF/ROBERT J. GURECKI
In talking to Strath Haven head coach Kevin Haney before the season, he mentioned that he thought Garnet Valley was the team to beat in the Central League. When reminded that he had All-Delco Sharay Barnes at his disposal, and a rising star in the ever-improving Alice Roberts, Haney admitted that while he liked his talent, he felt that maybe the Jaguars had better depth across the board. Throw in getting used to a new setter in Bailey Woods and questions about his team’s defensive skills, and maybe Haney had a point.
Not so fast. The Panthers got what Haney termed, “the best game of Bailey’s career,” and a late defensive switch made all the difference against a diverse GV attack.
“Bailey played really well,” Haney said. “I think this was her big, breakout performance. The numbers were clearly there. I mean, 47 assists is a big night for any setter, but she’s really starting to learn how to lead the team. She’s taking care of all the intangibles and really being a court general.
Two of the other big factors that led to the SH win was arguably the best home-court advantage in Delco, and a defensive switch that was made at Monday’s practice. Libero Rachel Powers, who committed to West Chester on a partial scholarship Saturday after an on-campus visit, moved to left back, a position she’s familiar with. That, according to Haney, seemed to help everyone else out.
“We changed our defense entirely, and it makes everyone more confident,” Haney said. “”We needed a breakout performance on defense and (Tuesday) we got it.’
Even though the teams don’t play again in the regular season, Haney and Clark are confident they will meet again in the Central League Tournament.
“We’ll see them again,” Haney said. “I think offensively, they’re going to do some different things. I don’t think there’s a better player at finding the open zones than (All-Delco) Ellie Ezekiel, so they’ll do more stuff with her. Their gameplan to serve us aggressively worked at first, but we just adjusted. But (Garnet Valley head coach) Mark (Clark) will change stuff up.”
Haney also took the opportunity to give credit to a rowdy crowd that always seems to help the Panthers elevate their game.
“Our gym is a tough one to play in at night, and we took advantage of it,” he said.
On the other side, it’s going to be tough for Clark to combat his team’s biggest deficiency against SH, which is sheer size. Players like Barnes and Roberts give a smaller GV team problems, something the Jaguars will have to account for if they run into the Panthers again.
“My tallest girl is 5-10. We have to think about different ways to beat a team like that,” Clark said. ” We have to do some other little things correctly when we get the opportunity, we just weren’t ready for that (Tuesday).”
Roberts’ post-kill celebration should be a familiar one to golf fans. The junior from Strath Haven pumps her fist like Tiger Woods every time she puts a shot away.
“It’s something I’ve always done after every point,” Roberts said. “It’s just habit.”
Roberts’ right arm had to be a little tired after the junior outside hitter recorded 14 kills to help the Panthers rally in a battle of unbeaten teams
“Everyone wanted to beat them so bad,” Roberts said. “They’re so good and it’s always a battle. We just clicked. It was the perfect night.”
– TERRY TOOHEY AND MATT CHANDIK