Sarah Nugent celebrated her first victory as new head volleyball coach at Towson High in the team’s second match of the season as the Generals used aggressive serving and a balanced offensive attack to upend host Franklin, 25-11, 25-23, 25-11, on Thursday night.
The Generals delivered 23 aces in the three sets, led by seniors Sydney Fringer (7), Tyanna Butler (6) and Claire Beaudry (5).
Sophomore Bria Kahnert added a pair of aces and Becca Grim, Gretchen Eisenberg and Allison Horky added one each.
In the hitting department, Butler lead the way with six kills and Kahnert and Sophia Naughton had five each.
Butler set the tone with a aggressive kill from the middle in the first set that gave the Generals a 4-0 lead and forced Franklin to call an early time out.
“Everyone gets the ball, but If I get it I try to make sure I hit it as good as I can so that everyone gets riled up and gets together,” said Butler, who finished with three kills in the first set.
Fringer had three aces in the first set that was closed out by a pair of aces from Beaudry.
“Serving can be really, really hard, but it can also be inconsistent, so that is something that we are actually working on,” said Nugent, who coached at Eastern Tech the past eight years.
She takes over a Towson program that has been to the state tournament 16 times and won state titles in 2001 and 2010.
Nugent replaced Emily Berman, who played on the 2001 state champs and coached the 2010 winners.
Nugent’s only state tournament final four appearance at Eastern Tech came in 2010.
After the Generals opened the season by getting swept by South River, she was glad to see her team come out focused.
“I think losing the first game to South River was kind of a wake-up call for them and they came today with an effort they really needed for this season,” Nugent said. “I would credit Franklin with having an extremely scrappy team, they put up great defensive play and I think their star player is number one (Ayana Booze), she can hit the ball from anywhere on the court.”
The Indians did give the Generals a scare in the second set when they rallied from a 24-18 deficit to make it 24-23.
A Towson hitting error started the rally and that was followed by an unconventional kill from Esti Lichtenberg, after she returned a hit for a winner with a dig.
Lichtenberg followed with a pair of aces, sandwiched around a hitting error, and the lead was 24-23 when Towson called time out.
A service error ended the set in Towson’s favor.
“You can’t sleep on that team,” Butler said.
The Generals rolled to victory with a strong third set.
They had nine service aces in the final set and kills by five different players in both the second and third sets.
Starting senior setter Emma Kelly and Tori Vidmar got everyone involved.
“I think everybody made a goal for themselves to work together as a team and everybody talked, called the ball and I think we are definitely going to take this victory as a team, it wasn’t just one person out there,” said Nugent, who played three years of high school volleyball at Dulaney High before playing and coaching at Frostburg University. “They just pulled together really nicely so it is good to see that.”
Seeing the offense jell was something the new coach also appreciated.
“What I like is we are very strong offensively, we are definitely strong at the net and we have strong leadership amongst the team, which I like,” Nugent said.
One of those leaders is Butler, who was on Towson’s 17-2 squad that lost to Westminster in three sets in the 2017 Class 3A state semifinals. Butler had five kills in the match and was a key contributor to the county champions, but she knows this is a whole new year with a new coach.
“It’s definitely a lot of growing pains, but the more practices we have, it comes more together and the new coach, she is awesome too,” Butler said. “She is working with us. She gives her input, I give my input and we just work together trying to make the team the best we can be.”