New volleyball coach starts with Warriors

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nansemond River’s Zach Vann hits against two Grassfield blockers during Tuesday’s season-opening volleyball match at Nansemond River. Grassfield beat the Warriors 25-12, 25-9, 25-18.

Grassfield gave Nansemond River’s new boys volleyball coach, Michael Blei, a cold introduction to volleyball in the Southeastern District Tuesday evening as the visiting Grizzlies cruised past the Warriors in three games, 25-12, 25-9, 25-18.

Despite how the opening match of the season went, and even while having barely more than three weeks of work with his new team, Blei knows his squad has enough experience and talent to improve in a hurry.

“August 1, that’s when we started conditioning and tryouts. So what’s that? 23 days,” Blei said.

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Along with being new to the players, so the adjustments are still going in both directions even as the regular season gets started, it’s Blei’s first high school coaching job.

Grassfield by comparison was in midseason form coming off of finishing fourth in the district last season.

The Grizzlies put big rallies together in the first two sets. In the opening game, the Grizzlies rolled off nine straight points to move out to a 13-3 margin. Grassfield led 9-2 and kept building its lead in the second game.

Along with a new coach, the Warriors are adjusting on the fly with a new setter, the point guard or quarterback of a volleyball lineup. Senior Tyler Brown, already a starter for the Warriors, is replacing graduated senior Josh Howard.

“We have seniors back who know the program and they’re working to get the younger guys in, help them understand, know the rotations, know how we have to play,” Blei said.

“Our passing and hitting, which wasn’t evident at all today, will be better,” Blei said.

Some Warrior hitting came to life in the final set. The Warriors scored four straight points to take a 10-9 lead. The Warriors remained close to the Grizzlies until late in the game.

“We’ve got to get used to playing as a team. We’ll get there. It’s not necessarily rebuilding but refocusing. Plus, for me, it’s learning the guys,” Blei said.

Grassfield’s primary setter, Curtis Stallings, totaled 22 assists with six Grizzly hitters getting kills.

Brown had four assists and three kills for the Warriors. Zach Vann had four assists.

“We have a lot of young guys just starting to come through the program, so we’re only going to get stronger. It will take some time to get used to the flow,” Blei said.

The Warriors, who were 7-11 last season, have very little time before their next

big test however. Nansemond River hosts Great Bridge, district runners-up and a regional semifinalist a season ago, on Thursday

at 5 p.m.