Several new faces emerged for the Brentwood volleyball team, which has plenty of holes to fill from a veteran roster that guided the Lady Bruins to record-tying sixth consecutive state championship last season.
Brentwood opened the 2019 season with a 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 sweep of visiting Division II contender Father Ryan on Tuesday in Brentwood.
Senior Piper Drazek – the only senior and one of those new faces for Brentwood – dished out 36 assists. Drazek displayed a fast connection with junior standout Shaye Eggleston, who collected a match-best 19 kills, as the six-time defending champs shook off early jitters for the win.
"We graduated six seniors from last year so we’re kind of feeling what that means as we get going,” said Eggleston, who added seven digs and two aces. “We are definitely still figuring each other out, but at the same time, many of us have played club together, so we are just trying to develop that chemistry we need.”
Eggleston, along with Mary Oldham and Hollye Tate, are the only three players on the Brentwood roster who saw action in the Lady Bruins run to a sixth straight title last season. Among the seniors lost to graduation are three-year starters Andrea Aceveda, a defensive specialist, and setter Tori Carpenter, while underclassman Morgan Carter – the 2018 state tournament MVP – moved to Texas.
“I tell you what, we didn’t even think we were going to have a senior this season before we found out about Piper,” veteran Lady Bruins coach Barbara Campbell said. “She is one welcome senior and she's a great little player and the hitters love having her on the court.”
Drazek moved from Illinois after the volleyball season last year and has enjoyed building a connection with her new hitters, including top returners Eggleston and Oldham.
“Just knowing their past record here and watching videos of them playing, it’s a lot to live up to, but it’s also very motivating,” Drazek said. “You want to keep the legacy going and I think we started that tonight.”
Over the weekend, Brentwood battled Father Ryan to a two-game split in a final preseason tournament.
The Lady Bruins gained the upper hand in the first set Tuesday, but the Lady Irish battled to a 16-16 tie.
“We just met at the middle and said, ‘we’re not losing this,’” Drazek said after the tie.
“Everybody picked up their communication and we all just decided to get this done,” Eggleston added. "Even though we have these new faces, we've told them all along about the Brentwood mentality and they found it."
Six seniors. Six consecutive volleyball championships. "And Even this No. 6," Brentwood seni…
The Lady Bruins closed the first game on a 9-2 run. Eggleston and Tate combined for four kills in the final spurt.
Father Ryan, which has advanced to the Division II-AA state tournament for five consecutive years, battled the home team in each game, but unforced errors stacked up.
“It really comes down to how we need to focus on our side of the net and not theirs,” Lady Irish coach Ann Mullins said. “I think we get into a place where we get too comfortable and maybe take a step back and become a little too laid back in our approach … so we talked about owning the ball and owning that first touch because otherwise we can get in trouble.
"That's what hurt us tonight.”
Hitters Lucy Green and Bella Cartwright caused some trouble on the outside for the Lady Bruins, but Brentwood was able to piece together crucial runs late to pull away.
After a Green kill pulled Father Ryan within 15-13 in the second game, the Lady Bruins extended the lead to six. Still, the Lady Irish threatened late, closing within 24-23 before Brentwood cliched the set.
“Father Ryan played us really tough,” Campbell said. “They’re a great team. There’s a reason why we play teams like this. We like to play at this level. We like to play tough teams. … These are our non-district opponents, but they help us prepare for out strong conference where it's always a dogfight.”
Brentwood scored nine of the final 12 points in the third set to collect the sweep. Tate added eight kills and Oldham had six, while both served three aces. Rylie Kael added seven digs and three kills, while Haley Sanders – another Brentwood newcomer – recorded six digs.
The Lady Bruins travel to Murfreesboro for their annual early season showdown with Siegel Wednesday. Brentwood swept the Lady Stars for the championship last season.
Father Ryan battles another District 12-AAA team when the Lady Irish host Page on Wednesday.