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Fine tuning

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Connersville junior Bella Baker leaps for a block attempt in a scrimmage against Cambridge City Lincoln, Wednesday evening inside the CHS gymnasium. Baker and the Lady Spartans open their 2018 campaign on the road, Monday at New Palestine.
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Cambridge City Lincoln Laynie Russell collects a serve receive against the Connersville Spartans, in a scrimmage between the two squads on Wednesday evening, inside the CHS gymnasium. Russell and the Lady Golden Eagles open their 2018 season with a home dual against Seton Catholic on Wednesday evening.
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Members of the Connersville and Cambridge City Lincoln volleball teams join for a group photo, in support of Connersville’sBrooklan Phillips (back row, center, in white), prior to their scrimmage on Wednesday night. Phillips, a volleyball player for the Lady Spartans, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and started her first chemotherapy treatment on Thursday. Both teams wore shirts during warm-ups in support of the CHS junior.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Prior to their scrimmage against one another on Wednesday evening, both the Connersville and Cambridge City Lincoln volleyball teams came together in a show of solidarity, posing with Lady Spartan Brooklan Phillips for a group photo.

Phillips a volleyball player for the Spartans was diagnosed recently with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and began her first chemotherapy treatment on Thursday.

But on Wednesday night, the CHS junior could think of no better place to be, than with her teammates and peers, as they staged their final pre-season tune-up inside the Connersville High School gymnasium.

Following the moment of good will between the two teams, however, it was business as usual, as the focus turned to spikes, blocks and digs.

The first scenario in the scrimmage resembled a typical volleyball set, though score wasn’t all that important, due to the fact that each player on both teams got five serves each, regardless of the scoreboard.

A total of 60 points were played in that scenario, and in the end, Connersville had most of them, by a 36-24 margin.

In the second stage of the scrimmage, the score wasn’t even kept, as coaches Greg Seidner and Torrie Whitmore tossed balls into the air for their players to put into play.

The third part of the scrimmage saw the two teams taking turns, trailing 10-7 in a race to 15. Connersville was first, and the Lady Spartans quickly tied the set with three unanswered points.

Cambridge City Lincoln would recover, however, and take the game 15-12.

LHS was next to trail, and the Lady Golden Eagles would make this one much closer.

Eventually trailing 13-9 in the set, Lincoln would knock down four straight points to tie the score at 13-13. From there, the two teams went back-and-fourth with three more ties, the best rally of the night coming with the two teams tied at 15-15.

Connersville would eventually win that point, and go on to win the game 18-16.

Following those three scenarios, the two teams engaged in a pair of regular sets.

The Spartans won the first in close fashion 25-22, and rode that wave to win seven of the first nine points in the second set.

But Cambridge City would score 11 unanswered points to flip the deficit, taking a 13-7 lead. Connersville followed with a pair of points in an attempt to stem the Eagles’ momentum, but the visitors would answer with eight of the next nine points to build the lead to 21-10.

In a final gasp, CHS scored six of the final 10 points, but the final score still read in LHS’ favor, 26-16.

“We played a little better in that last set,” Seidner said of the final win. “I thought, over all, we had some up and down moments in there.”

Whitmore said her girls might have ran out of steam in the final set.

“In that last set, it appeared that the girls just got tired,” she said. “This was the first time that they’d played an entire hour and-a-half match like that one in several months.”

Connersville opens its regular season on Monday, when the team travels to New Palestine, while Lincoln opens on Wednesday, at home against Seton Catholic.

That made Wednesday’s practice match, for the most part, a final chance to make adjustments against a live opponent.

When the evening drew to a close, the two coaches offered a take on their respective units.

“There were things that we did really good, but I thought that transition was a real struggle for us tonight,” Seidner said of the Eagles. “I thought our passing was another problem for us at the beginning, but we got better at that as the night went on. Serving was pretty solid throughout the match, with only a couple of exceptions.”

“Over all, I thought they played pretty well, and that they were very scrappy,” Whitmore said of her charges. “I felt like our hitting was pretty good and our serve receive was awesome. I have not seen that kind of serve receive from these girls in a while. We’re all adapting and changing, and I think the girls are doing that really well.

In addition to those comments, both coaches appeared confident, heading into the season.

“If we get our legs back under us and iron out a few things, I think we will be ready by the time next week gets here,” Seidner offered.

Whitmore was equally enthused.

“We’re ready. I think it will be good,” she said. “I think we should be able to compete with (New Palestine). I can’t wait to get out there and play a real match.”