By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
COAL CITY —
When you’re less than 6 feet tall and playing up front in volleyball, your options are limited.
Play smart and without fear against the big girls, or get killed.
“It takes a lot of courage,” Independence’s 5-foot-7 outside-hitting dynamo Anne Bass said. “You have to think, ‘How can I get around this player? What do I have to do differently?’ You have to find a hole.”
Bass, a junior, does just that, with skill and power, and is a primary reason the Patriots are a favorite in the Class AA Region 3, Section 3 tournament, which starts Monday at Liberty High School.
Coach Patty Bryant said Bass has carried the 38-14-2 Patriots with her hitting, serving and defensive abilities.
“Anne is quick as a cat, and she can play all the way around,” Bryant said. “She has a great vertical, and she knows the game well. She’s (setter) Brooke Foley’s go-to girl most of the time.”
Bass had 31 kills and 22 digs Saturday as Independence defeated fellow AA power PikeView and Class A Doddridge County by 2-1 scores at Coal City. The Patriots also lost 2-0 to former AAA Nicholas County, which now plays in the AA ranks.
Thursday night, Bass had 11 kills, 6 digs and 8 service points to help Independence avenge a beating incurred two days earlier at South Charleston.
“Anne shut down on us at South Charleston because she kept getting blocked,” Bryant said. “But we worked (Wednesday) on how to get around that block, and she was back on. Her confidence level was back.”
And confidence, in hitting, is everything. Especially when you’re going against a 6-2 middle blocker like the Black Eagles’ Meredith Lauerman, whose long arms seem to put her all over the front row.
“We were freaking out against them. Lauerman is really good,” Bass said. “It’s frustrating when you keep getting blocked.
“But I don’t give up. You can’t say, ‘This girl is going to get it past me.’ You have to go up saying, ‘I’m going to be up there and I’m going to block her.’
“Thursday I was more confident in myself.”
On the offensive side, it helps to have a setter like Foley, who not only knows the game, but she knows the hitters.
And Bass is her No. 1 target.
“Brooke and I have a connection on the court, a chemistry,” Bass said. “When I’m down, she picks me up, or when she’s down, I’m going to pick her up. We’re also like that outside of volleyball. We have a special bond.”
Bass also works well with the Patriots middle blocker Kelsey Hart, a senior who had never played varsity volleyball before this season.
Bass doesn’t find it necessary to try to compensate up front for Hart’s inexperience.
“I trust Kelsey. Even though it’s her first year, she’s surprised us all,” Bass said. “She’s a great blocker. She can handle it.”
First-round games Monday include Independence against host Liberty, and Summers County versus Wyoming East at 5:30 p.m. in Glen Daniel.
Westside, which drew a first-round bye, will play the Summers-Wyoming East winner at 7:30 p.m. The Summers-Wyoming East loser takes on the Independence-Liberty loser, also at 7:30 p.m.
The tournament will continue through Wednesday, weather-permitting.
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