The defending champions Scottsdale Vixens and the Scotiabank Defenders picked up where they left off last year, winning the New Providence Volleyball Association women’s and men’s season openers Sunday at the DW Davis Gymnasium.
While the Vixens, with the addition of two key players, pulled off a four-set victory over their nemesis Johnson’s Cherry-Boomers in the ladies’ opener, the Defenders had to go the distance before they prevailed with a hard fought five-set marathon win over the National Fence Intruders.
League president DeVince Smith said now that the season is underway, they are looking forward to a very competitive year with eight teams in the men’s division and six in the women’s division.
“From the competition, I thought it was good. We had a few fans out today and I think once they continue to see the high level of competition and they feel safe in the gym, I think we will do pretty good this year,” Smith said.
Although they didn’t have an official opening ceremony to kick off the season, Smith said by the time they hold the All-Star Classic on November 3, they intend to have a spectacular half-time show when they will making the presentation of championship rings to the Vixens and the Defenders.
Vixens over Cherry-Boomers in four sets
Nothing changed between the top two ladies’ teams as Scottsdale once again took a part Johnson’s, formerly parading under the Truckers. The Vixens won 25-16, 24-26, 25-19 and 30-28 and with the addition of Melinda Bastian and Ruthann Simms from the Truckers, Krystel Rolle said the Vixens will be hard to beat again this year.
“It feels great because we have two new players from the Truckers and they came in and played very well for us,” Rolle said. “Last year, our goal was to win every game, but we gave up one to the Junior Nationals and one to the Truckers.
“But this year with the addition of the new players, we feel very confident that we can go all the way and win all of our games. Ruthie brings a lot of defence. She’s a very strong player in the backcourt and Melinda brings a lot of offence. She is a very strong hitter. They both bring something different that compliment our team.”
Scottsdale, whose starting setter Tia Wilson sat out the opening game with Laval Sands picking up the stack, once again got a good 1-2 punch from sisters Cheryse Bain and Crystel Rolle to go along with Camillia Miller. What they didn’t provide, Bastian made up against her former team.
The Cherry-Boomers, now coached by Covance Mortimer, was led by the combo of Kelsie Johnson, Michelle Thompson and Davia Moss. It was obvious that the departure of Bastian and Simms, in addition to Anastacia Moultrie on the sidelines watching, the Johnson’s team was not the same.
“It’s not that we can’t beat this team, We just go into a lot of mental lapses,” a disappointed Johnson said. “Whenever we rallied to come back from a five or six point deficit, we played as if we just won and you can’t do that against the defending champions.
“But it doesn’t matter about losing the opening game. We are trying to work the new players into our line-up. We don’t really care if they beat us in the first game, we still have a long season ahead of us. We are in a rebuilding stage and we hope to get better as the season progresses.”
Johnson said they could use the service of Bastian, but with her departure they now have to find a way to win without her.
Defenders in five sets over the Technicians
It took five gruelling sets with the match being delayed every time a player slid on the court to wipe up the wet spots, for Scotiabank, coached by DeVince Smith, to prevail with a 22-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-22 and 15-13 decision.
The Defenders got the upper hand at the final break at 8-6 in the fifth. It came down to the final two plays with Lahaundro Thompson coming through with a spike to push their lead to 14-13. On the next play, he teamed up with setter Tony Simon for a block to end the game.
“It feels good, although we were missing one or two of our players,” Simon said. “We had no doubt that we could win. It was a very good game, but with all of our players out, we know we could play a lot better. It was a good game. We had to play hard to pull this one off.”
The Defenders also got some outstanding play from Shedrick Forbes and Jamaal Ferguson, their libero player who had to end up playing the full game as they were short-handed.
For the Technicians, Renaldo Knowles powered his way through with some clutch hits. They also got Adalbert Ingraham and Eric ‘Pappi’ Johnson to help out, while Je’Vaughn Saunders carried the load as the setter.
“I think our performance wasn’t that bad for a team that didn’t have that much practice,” Knowles said. “We don’t really have our chemistry together yet, so for what we did against the defending champions, I think we played very well to start the season.
“We just need the guys to start coming out so that we can develop our chemistry and then we can flow much better as a team.”
NOTE: The league is slated to resume play on Tuesday night with a men’s double header. In the opener at 7:30pm, the Saints are set to take on Passe. That will be followed by the Champions against the Intruders at 9pm.