BRUSLY — Starting the high school volleyball season a week late has given teams fewer games to develop chemistry, a key element The Dunham School and Brusly were in search of Saturday morning.
Led by senior Kibi Huggins’ 10 kills and four blocks, it was Dunham that took a bigger step forward with a 3-1 win over Brusly by scores of 25-22, 25-17, 19-25 and 25-21.
The match was played at Brusly’s new gymnasium, which still awaits finishing touches like a scoreboard, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic slowing down construction.
Based on coronavirus mandates, players on the bench were seated in staggered rows behind the court sideline, and the teams did not switch sides as normal between games.
Dunham (5-1) features a lineup with only two seniors, and is looking to maintain the momentum gained from consecutive state tournament appearances the past two seasons. Brusly (1-4), with just two seniors, was topped by freshman Laila Clark’s nine kills and six digs.
“It's early in the season,” Dunham coach Donna Pixley said. “I think our mental game is suffering the most and controlling the physical part of our game. Physically, we’re really big, we jump well and we should block better than we do.”
Dunham’s Nicole Perkowski came up with an all-around effort and finished with eight kills, three blocks and 11 digs. Caylin Pixley had 27 assists, four aces and 11 digs, and Jada Hayes added eight kills and a team-high 13 digs.
Brusly started three sophomores in addition to Clark. The Panthers stayed within striking distance of Dunham throughout. That theme, a consistent one for the Panthers, has yet to yield a victory.
“Coming against a team like Dunham, who is typically at the state tournament every year, this is not a bad loss,” Brusly coach Kayla Sarradet said. “It was good, competitive volleyball.”
Pitching in for the Panthers was libero Alayah Gedward with 12 digs, and Haley Joffrion with seven kills.
In the first game, Dunham took an early six-point lead, and eventually led 23-16. Brusly won six of the next seven points, a run highlighted by Mallory Louque’s kill and Lawryn Sampson’s ace, to pull within 24-22.
After a Dunham timeout, Huggins' kill closed the first game win for the Tigers.
Dunham kept Brusly at arms length throughout the second game and took control by winning seven of 10 points to take a 21-15 lead. Consecutive aces by Pixley provided the last two points in a 25-17 win.
In the third game, Clark had three kills and a block as Brusly pulled away late for a 25-19 win. The game was tied 16-16 before the Panthers put together their day’s most impressive stretch of play.
The fourth game saw Dunham take a 10-3 lead before closing the match with a 25-21 win.