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CURRENT STORIES


Bridgeport gears up for postseason

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

BRIDGEPORT -- No one on the Bridgeport volleyball team is fretting over their only loss of the regular season. They're too busy trying to win a state championship.

The Indians (17-1) begin Class AA sectional play Monday as the likely favorite. They'll be looking to exact revenge on Philip Barbour (10-8), the only team to beat them. Host team Ritchie County is also in the sectional.

Looking further ahead, Bridgeport hopes to make a third trip to the state tournament under coach Becky Sabatelli, held this year at Robert C. Byrd High School.

Bridgeport won its first 11 matches before falling to the Colts in Philippi on Oct. 9. Philip Barbour won in straight sets by a combined 13 points.

"We just didn't have a good game there," Sabatelli said. "They were so overpumped at Philip Barbour. They couldn't do anything."

Immediately after that loss, the Indians started another winning streak, which is at six entering postseason play. But that's not to say everything's been easy.

On Wednesday, they closed the regular season with a sweep of South Harrison. But they had to crawl out of seven-point holes in the first two games and won both in extended play. Sabatelli has noticed a confident aura around her team.

"As long as we keep our heads up, I don't think it matters how much we're down by," outside hitter Emily Albertson said.

Albertson is one of three Bridgeport seniors, along with Rachel Sigler and Amy Lilly. The Indians roster is balanced, with six freshmen producing, including setter Heidi Bastin. Lone sophomore Kayla Show is a starting front hitter.

"We have a strong freshman class," Sigler said. "They definitely came up and stepped it up.

"As freshmen, you come in, and you're real scared. They don't think that way. They have so much confidence."

So does the team as a whole. Sabatelli isn't surprised by Bridgeport's record or results.

"I knew we could do it if we really worked at it," she said. "They know what they can do. It's just a matter of getting it together. What happens is, they make a few mental mistakes, but this team does not get down on themselves. They laugh. When I first started coaching them, I thought that was terrible; I hated it. But these girls know what the mistake is, and then they laugh and overcome it."

Now the Indians are on a mission. In the previous two trips to the state tournament, they've lost in the first round. But with only one loss entering this week's sectionals, that's one streak they hope to end.

"That's what they've been striving for all year," Sabatelli said. "If they play the caliber of play that they know how, they'll be all right."

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at rpeirce@exponent-telegram.com.