Alex Mitchell ’22 received a pass from Violet Enes ’21 to set up Co-Captain Caleb Blackburn-Johnson ’22 for a crushing hit over the net, giving Andover Volleyball the win 27-24 in the third set. Despite these advantages, the team fell short 3-1 in its season opener against Phillips Exeter Academy on Saturday.
Leading up to its first game of the season, the team looked to give its best effort and prove its capabilities to Exeter, a team they’ve had difficulties against in the past, according to Mitchell and Co-Captain Jerry Shu ’21.
Mitchell said, “[The goal] was just to play as well as we could. [Exeter] beat us up pretty badly in the past. I don’t think we’ve ever won a set off them, and then we took the third set off them. So it definitely sent a message that we’re there to play, and they can’t just take us for granted. We were definitely trying to surprise them and be consistent.”
Shu added, “We wanted to beat the crap out of Exeter. Unfortunately, our mission was not accomplished, but we did take a set off of them which felt good because we haven’t taken a set off of them in a couple [of] years.”
With all other competitions canceled on Saturday, the gym was packed as Andover students filled the seats to watch the rivals battle it out on the court. According to Mitchell and Shu, playing in front of a solely Andover crowd brought the team energy and motivation throughout the game.
Shu said, “It was crazy. We had a massive crowd come out, just cheering for everything. There were some chants out there that some people were going out and chanting, and we didn’t really expect it. It felt good to sort of have that energy in the building.”
Despite Andover falling to its rivals in a close game, the team was proud of its performance against a strong Exeter team, according to Mitchell.
“I think we’re really happy, I think this is the best we’ve played against Exeter. If we made slightly fewer errors, we definitely would have won. And we’re definitely planning for our next game, I think we’re playing them in three weeks’ time, so we’re definitely getting ready for that, and we will come back swinging,” said Mitchell.
Having not played a formal game in over a year and still adjusting to new teammates with the all-gender team format this spring, the team found sparks of success through multiple individual efforts, according to Shu and Mithcell.
Shu said, “My man, Caleb ‘Big Shark’ Blackburn-Johnson, he was just manhandling the ball. He was killing it. Every time we fed the ball to him, there would just be an instant kill. I think he left some dents in the linoleum floor on Saturday that we’ll have to get patched up on the floor for next Saturday.”
Mitchell added, “I think our back row quickset to Caleb Blackburn-Johnson, was just an absolute weapon because they had absolutely no idea where it was coming. [Luke Gordos PG’21] would set a screen and then Caleb would have the entire middle of the court wide open… Also, we had some great plays on defense. Violet Enes and [Michelle Brunetti ’23] were making some great pickups.”
Andover will look to capture its first win of the season at home against Northfield Mount Hermon next Saturday at 1:00 p.m.