PORTVILLE — Just how far has the undefeated Portville girls volleyball team improved over the first month of the season?
In the Panthers’ season opener on the road Sept. 6, the back-to-back state champions needed four games to get by Cattaraugus-Little Valley, 25-13, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22. Three weeks later, Wednesday night at Portville Central, the Panthers swept the Timberwolves 25-8, 25-13, 25-9 in a match that took just 57 minutes.
Portville coach Kelly Unverdorben noted that sophomore Sierra Keim had just returned from an injury before the Panthers’ opener, which could explain the slow start.
“She was a little rusty and getting things worked out and (we had) first-game jitters but of course they would have had the same thing and I’m not much for excuses,” Unverdorben said. “We could get into the heat, but they had the same heat, so it really wasn’t many excuses for us. I think a lot of it was just trying to work out our kinks and figure out where everybody was going to go and how we were going to run things and I think again it made a big difference to have a healthy Sierra instead of a Sierra fresh off an injury.”
SOPHOMORE Beth Miller led a balanced Portville lineup with 11 kills, seven blocks and four aces. Junior Haley Unverdorben and sophomore Brooke Decker, two setters, had nine assists each. Sophomore Sydney Colligan led Portville servers with nine aces and added five kills while senior Alyssa Martin chipped in three blocks.
The Panthers improved to 9-0 (7-0 in CCAA East) and have lost just three games this year.
“We still have a lot to work on: of course I’m one of those coaches that I’m never happy enough,” Unverdorben said. “It’s like, ‘OK, a little more, a little faster, a little stronger.’ So sometimes I think they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, is she never happy?’ But no, I always want more all the time out of them and I expect more because I think they’re worthy of it.”
As the wins pile up, the Panthers don’t seem too concerned with their 39-match win streak.
“I really don’t hear much about it,” Unverdorben said. “They don’t talk about it and I don’t bring it up. I’m not a fan of knowing where the records are, let’s just take one day at a time, one practice at a time and one game at a time. Let’s not worry about what’s out there in the past and in the future. Let’s play in the moment.”
Junior Menleigh Ellis had three kills and eight digs to lead C-LV (4-4, 3-4). Sophomore Mackenzie Ryan made three blocks and sophomore Brooklynn Hill had 12 digs.
Portville never trailed in the first and third games Wednesday and quickly came back from a 6-4 deficit in the second.
T-Wolves coach Heather Smith said other than Portville’s excellent serving, she didn’t have an explanation for the difference in results from their season opener.
“They acted the same before the game, they wanted to beat them, they were all pumped up,” Smith said. “(Portville) got stronger since the first game too. With their serving, we couldn’t pass.
“(We need to) be able to come back from being down. They didn’t give up per se but we’ve got to be able to side-out faster than that.”