By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

LAKIN Second-year coach Jennifer Barrett had only two varsity players returning for the 2011 Holcomb High School volleyball team while Lakin's Steve Davidson could count six veterans with experience from 2010.

So when the two nearby rivals met up in a season-opening night of volleyball on Tuesday, neither could have expected the outcome in which Barrett saw her young team power their way to a 25-14, 25-23, victory over the Lady Broncs.

Both teams had earlier dispatched of Meade in their first matches of 2011. Lakin went three sets before winning, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17 while Holcomb also used three sets for its opening win, 23-25, 25-17, 25-23.

"I'm proud of this group of girls based upon what I saw," Barrett said. "To come back and win in three sets, we didn't give up, and I've really talked to them about playing and being tough mentally."

Barrett said after that emotional first match victory over the Lady Buffaloes (Meade), she told her team to put it aside and get ready for a tough match with Lakin.

"Sometimes after a first match like that, you have a let down because it was so intense," Barrett said. "I just told them to take a break and get after it."

The Lady Longhorns got off to strong starts in both sets against Davidson's Lady Broncs. In the opening set, they were up 5-0, and then extended it to 12-4 and 18-9 before dispatching the host team handily, 25-14.

In the second set, it was much the same early as Holcomb opened up leads of 6-0, 14-8, 17-9 and 21-12 before the Lady Broncs rallied, making a spectacular 9-0 run to tie the game at 21.

"Give Holcomb credit, they played well," Davidson siai. "We just had a lot of trouble and made too many mistakes. We've got to develop some consistency and I think it's all about staying focused. We saw the same thing at times last year. We are really good or we are really bad. Tonight we were bad."

Davidson said he liked his team's come-from-behind win against Meade, but then saw the team take a step backward against Holcomb.

"We get it tied, and then missed a serve," Davidson said. "You can't change the way you're playing just because of the score and when it got tight we just reverted back to bad habits."

Davidson's displeasure with his team resulted in bringing them back onto the court about 30 minutes after their Holcomb match had concluded and put them through various drills.

"They've got to see what it's about by playing consistent and staying focused, so we'll work on those things," Davidson said. "It took us so long to get started.

"We just dug a big hole and couldn't dig out. We did some good things, but we did more bad things."

For Barrett, she was most pleased with her team's passing and service game, and the chemistry the players demonstrated during the two matches.

"This group has been working on becoming a team and they showed some of those characteristics," Barrett said. "We want them to develop a family attitude and not just six individuals out on the court."

Holcomb is at the Garden City quadrangular on Thursday with Great Bend and Liberal, while Lakin is idle until Sept. 6 when it travels to Elkhart.