POCATELLO – Scouting an opponent is important no matter the sport.
For the Shelley High School volleyball team, scouting their 3A state play-in game opponent Bear Lake was extremely important, and in fact it may have been the difference in the game.
Lady Russets head coach Dave Cousins had the opportunity to scout Bear Lake earlier in the week at the 3A District 5 tournament, and what he saw proved to be the difference in the match.
The service game and the Russets block proved to be the difference as Shelley took down Bear Lake in straight sets 25-11, 25-13, 25-23 to earn a berth in next weekend’s state tournament at a play-in game at Highland High School Saturday afternoon.
“Honestly I scouted them against American Falls and Snake River and I saw where we would have an advantage on them,” Cousins said. “We were able to exploit some gaps and some of the chutes and things and it worked really well for us.”
Another aspect of the game that worked extremely well for the Russets was the service game. Shelley had seven aces in the match, each coming at critical times in the match to steal momentum away from the Bears.
“There again I scouted them and I knew where they had problems,” Cousins said of the Russets service game. “I was very glad I had the opportunity to scout them because we did not really know much about them.”
While Cousins said scouting was important in the Russets win Saturday, the team took advantage of a lot of mistakes made by Bear Lake in the first two games to take control of the match.
The atmosphere of the Highland High School gym was one the Russets were used to as it felt more like a state tournament game than one that would determine who would go to state.
In the opening game the teams battled for every point as after a couple of Shelley kills the score was tied 9-9.
But Shelley ran off nine straight points to take control of the game at 14-9.
A nine point run to close out the game would be the difference as Shelley controlled the game to earn the 25-11 win.
In game two it was more of the same from the Russets.
Shelley battled for the first half of the game, before rallying to control the back half of the game. Myah Gillespie had two big kills to keep the momentum on the side of the Russets.
For a majority of the first two games the Bears could not get out of their own way, as mistake after mistake proved to be too much to overcome.
But in a two game hole and the season on the line, the Bears came into game three ready to play.
Bear Lake led the entire final game up until Shelley rallied to close the gap to 21-20. With the momentum swinging Shelley’s way, Bear Lake’s head coach did not call a timeout and the Russets made them pay.
Amanda Esplin tied the game on an ace, took the lead on another, but Bear Lake rallied again to tie the score at 23-23.
But a Heidi Hatch kill gave the Russets the lead for good.
“I was a bit nervous,” Cousins said. “But the girls were focused in practice and there was no negative talk in practice, they were focused on what they needed to do. I am happy to be back in the state tournament.”
Shelley will take on Filer at 10 a.m. Friday in Coeur d’Alene.