The 1997 Sandpoint High School volleyball team might rank as the most overwhelmingly underwhelming team in the school’s storied history in the sport.
The Bulldogs don’t possess a hitter who can consistently pound the ball in front of the 10-foot line. In fact, they’re offensive approach is seemingly hit-by-committee.
What they do possess, though, is a bent to get to every ball - whether spanked with authority, tipped, dinked, chipped, et al.
Behind effective serving, good passing and solid defense, Sandpoint handled Lake City 15-5, 15-13 in a much-anticipated Inland Empire League match Tuesday that didn’t live up to the anticipation.
The match - the first between the teams expected to battle for the league and regional titles - pitted Lake City, a team loaded with athletes but lacking cohesiveness and off-season experience, against Sandpoint, a team thriving on teamwork, hard work and off-season experience.
While LC coach Kent Scanlon was quick to point out that year-round playing experience prevailed over in-season experience, it should be noted that Sandpoint started two freshmen and two sophomores with two seniors.
Although technically Scanlon was correct, he wasn’t offering it as the lone reason why his team played poorly.
Except for a late second-game spurt, LC was non-existent.
Sandpoint coach Jeff Hurst said his team’s effort reminded him of how it works in practice.
“We work so hard, that’s where it shows,” Hurst said. “You should see how we practice. We practice like that - with intensity, with lots of movement, all the time. They’re doing well, but I don’t think they’ve been unbelievable yet. I don’t think we’ve had a great match yet.”
Sandpoint, 2-0 in league, won its 12th straight since a season-opening loss to St. Maries. LC slipped to 1-1, 4-6.
There were 11 side-outs before Sandpoint opened a 6-0 lead in the first game. LC pulled within 6-4, but the Bulldogs rattled off six straight points and nine out of the final 10 to put the first game away.
LC was called for four hits twice in the final three points and Sandpoint’s Kaitlin Glines had a kill for the 14th point.
The second game started much like the first as Sandpoint opened a 9-2 lead. Slowly LC chipped away, ultimately posting five straight points to take its only lead in the match at 13-12.
After a side out, Hurst inserted Brianna Staglund to serve. A block, followed by an ace and a deep kill by Janae Cates secured the match.
Freshman Rochelle Ruen led balanced Sandpoint with four kills and Cates and Megan Lippi had three each.
Lindsay Herbert, Kellie Stern and Kelley McCabe had five kills each for LC.
“They play so much in the spring and summer that they’re peaking right now,” Scanlon said of Sandpoint. “It’s going to take us a while. And I don’t know if we’ll ever catch up. It’s a glaring difference. Sandpoint’s a good machine right now.”
Hurst said his team isn’t playing for second.
“I think we’ll be at the state tournament,” he said. “I think we’re tough.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo