The Port Allegany volleyball team went 2-1 in last week’s North Tier League action, picking up its first two wins of the season by outlasting Austin (26-24, 21-25, 25-16, 16-25, 15-12) and Smethport (25-22, 19-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-11) in a pair of five-set thrillers.
“I think the key was, the girls really became a team,” new Port coach Rick Hutton said following the win over the Hubbers. “Up until now, they were a little tentative, looking elsewhere for guidance. But once they realized they were a team, they worked together.”
Senior middle hitter Kalyn Naylor, one of just two returning starters from last year’s NTL champions, led the Gator attack with 10 kills, 10 digs, and five aces. The other veteran, senior outside hitter Maleah Daniels, contributed seven kills, six digs, and four aces, while junior setter Marah Rush dealt out 14 assists and six aces.
“Both teams are clearly working hard to get better. That was a good, exciting match,” Hutton said after watching his squad rally from a 2-1 deficit against Smethport, then reel off a five-point service run by freshman Madeline Smith to take command in the final set. “I think we’re improving. This match was a big match for us. This is the first time, I think, that we felt like a team out there. The pieces were there, but they weren’t enmeshed. Now we’re more continuous, and it’s a good thing.”
While this is Hutton’s first year back on the Gator bench, he’s no stranger to the program, co-coaching Port to three NTL titles (1997-99) and its lone District 9 championship in 1998 alongside wife Meg Hutton.
“I think I’m more patient than a lot of coaches,” he said. “I think what I bring is allowing the kids to develop. I give them some space, try to nudge them along, try to build their confidence. I think that’s probably my biggest asset as a long-term coach; I’ve seen many kids develop over the years.”
Amanda Bosworth is the junior varsity coach while Jenn Moses helms the junior high club, with Tracy Smith and Brittany Fogel also assisting.
“All these girls have played Port volleyball, and Meg and I coached Jenn, Brittany and Amanda.
I’m trying to bring in a new crop of coaches so that we can continue the program, and I think I have really good people,” Hutton said.
The Gators (2-3, 2-2 NTL) host Youngsville in a non-league match on Monday, then travel to Coudersport the next night before returning home against Oswayo Valley on Thursday.
At Galeton, Sept. 23; Northern Potter, Sept. 24.