By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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NEW PALESTINE — The relatively new-to-the-sport New Palestine boys volleyball team competed in their first home match of the season Tuesday night, facing off against an experienced, established program in Southport.

With the sport of boys volleyball becoming an emerging IHSAA sport, more schools are beginning to form teams, but for the Dragons’ opponent, boys volleyball is nothing new.

Whether competing in volleyball as a club sport, or on summer teams, the Cardinals entered the match much more experienced than the Dragons, in just their second season.

That experience showed in the Cardinals 25-17, 25-9, 25-19 straight-set victory over the Dragons.

But for New Palestine head coach Amy Schreiber-Roan, this season is less about wins and losses and more about improving.

“Leaps and bounds better tonight,” Schreiber-Roan said about the team’s performance Tuesday as opposed to their season-opening straight-set loss to Covenant Christian on Monday. “Southport is a really tough team, and they’ve been established for quite a few years, and their kids have been playing for a long time. Most of our kids are in their second year of playing, so some of the difference is that experience. I thought there were a lot of good things that our guys did tonight.”

The Dragons showed flashes of bright spots all night long, and jumped out to an early 4-1 lead behind a Jake Cwikla ace and Daysen Wood kill.

In an 8-8 tie later in the set, it was that inexperience of the Dragons rearing its head. The Cardinals reeled off 10 of the next 13 points to jump ahead 18-11, and never looked back. Four kills and an ace closed out the opening set.

“In some of our movements we lack a bit of discipline because it is still a pretty new sport to our guys. We let go of some things that kind of prevent us from maintaining our leads or maintaining the good things that we’re doing at the time,” Schreiber-Roan said. “We need to be more consistent, that’s for sure.”

The Southport momentum gained towards the end of the first set carried directly over into the second, where two aces from Britain Givens gave the Cardinals a quick lead.

It was that inability to defend the Southport serve that gave the Dragons trouble throughout the remainder of the match.

After the opening two points came off of aces, the Cardinals earned six more points throughout the set in that fashion. Givens added two more, and four different Cardinals scored one.

“We have some very talented passers, so some of that is just more of a mental thing,” Schreiber-Roan said. “We fall into that lull and I think we start thinking of the previous play rather than what we need to be doing in the moment.”

While the Dragons may be inexperienced, they don’t show a lack of fight, and that was no more evident than in the final set.

After falling behind 9-1, and later 12-3, New Palestine fought back to pull within six, 15-9. Off of some hustle plays to keep the ball alive, the Dragons forced multiple net violations and other errors on the Cardinals.

And after another Southport run to go up 21-11, the Dragons showed that ability to fight back again, outscoring the Cardinals 8-4 the remainder of the way.

“We talk about that, and we’re trying to eliminate some of the ups-and-downs and the long strings of points,” Schreiber-Roan said. “They’re gritty, and they’re not going to give up, and that’s something that we work on every day. Just not giving up on the ball, not giving up on each other, and they showed a lot of that tonight, so I was very proud of them.”

New Palestine’s next match is Thursday at 6 p.m. on the road at Franklin Community.