CRESTVIEW — Volleyball, as Choctawhatchee High School coach Scott Allen explained, is a game of runs, a point compounded when more than half of the players on the floor are underclassmen.
Allen had just witnessed his Indians rally from down 9-6 at Crestview to win the first set 25-20, collapse to lose the second 25-19 after leading 16-5, give away another 13-9 lead to drop the third 25-22, and claw back from down 13-6 to steal the fourth 25-21 Tuesday.
“That right there,” he said as the teams headed to a fifth set, “is youth.”
The good thing about a team that peaks and valleys, though? Those peaks can be awfully high.
Behind a six-kill fifth set from sophomore Evelina Teran and a booming quick-set kill from Kassandra Fairly, Choctaw routed the Bulldogs in the final set, 15-5, to win its season opener.
“It’s a huge run sport,” Allen said. “It comes in spurts. You’re going to have four points and then they’re going to have four points and how you react to it is the difference.
“I’m ecstatic. I thought Crestview was great and when they were putting it to us it was well deserved. I was just happy that our girls found that zone a little bit and as far as that first, opening-day match? It was needed.”
Allen, overseeing a roster with five freshmen — including three who started — to just a lone senior, knew the topsy turvy nature that this season might have in store, particularly early on when half his starting lineup had played exactly zero varsity matches prior to Tuesday.
Keeping that in mind, he took the highs with the lows, understanding that the Indians could rattle off a 7-1 run — as they did in the final set — as easily as they could suffer a 12-0 run — which they did in the third.
“It got a little frustrating but we’ve been preparing ourselves; it’s going to be up and down when you have a young team like that,” Allen said. “I was glad that we kinda changed up and we went to a rotation that had worked before and you could just see it on the girls’ faces that they just started to relax a little bit more and we got a couple serves in, made a few digs, the posture changed, the attitude changed, and that was the difference.
“As soon as we took it to the fifth set I said, ‘Alright, that’s what I wanted.’ I knew they had that fight and that’s what we got.”
Teran, who finished with a team-high 14 kills, is also a firm believer in that fight Allen spoke of.
“I don’t even know, I was just so ready to win,” she said. “It was the first game of the season, and we were like, ‘You gotta do this, you don’t have room to make mistakes.’ And I just wanted to be there for my team.
“I think we thought we had it in the bag and we just lost intensity. We need to stay intense the whole game.”
Crestview is not unlike Choctaw. Coach Kathy Combest is also heading a young team, which, on Tuesday at least, was anchored by sophomores Marisa Rogers and Kierra Potts.
Rogers, bolstered by an eight-assist third set — two of which went to Potts for kills — matched Choctaw’s Emily Keichel with 18 assists apiece while Potts led all players with 15 kills, recording at least three in four of the five sets.
“We just gotta quit scoring for the other team,” Combest said. “But that’s just a part of being young. ... My girls just need to get a little tougher. They’ll figure it out, they will. We got all season.
“This game right here, it showed me everything we need to work on, and that’s exactly why we scheduled this game — out of district, just two good programs.”