Last fall, Frances Sukley was added to the Madison County volleyball roster to serve as an understudy to all-state setter Makenna Santinga.
Nine months later, the junior standout showed that she was a quick learner.
Sukley tallied 12 service points, 26 assists, three aces and a block in her first varsity start to lead the Mountaineers to a 25-6, 25-14, 25-17 home victory over Orange County in the season opener for both teams.
“We took Frances on the varsity team last year to kind of prepare for this year,” Madison County coach Carrie Hardy said. “She’s really stepped in and she’s running the court now, which is great. In the past couple of weeks, she’s really stepped up and done everything that I’ve asked of her. She had big shoes to fill, but she’s doing great and hopefully by next year, she’ll be in the same spot as Makenna was.”
Madison County (1-0) seized control of the match early in the first set thanks to the prowess of their front-row hitters Abi Tanner, Emily Dodson, Maggie Butters and Ava Jenkins. The quartet combined for six kills and three blocks in the first game to set the tone early.
An all-region performer last season, Tanner was the catalyst at the net.
“She’s a go-to for us on the middle,” Hardy said “She runs many options and she does a great job for us.”
The Mountaineers also were efficient from the service line as Lindsay McDaniel and Dodson tallied six points apiece. Dodson and Jenkins combined for six aces to give their team the first set, 25-6.
Orange County (0-1) shook off some early jitters and played much better in the final two games. Anna Kilby’s kill trimmed the Madison lead to 12-10 early in the second game and forced Madison to spend a timeout. The breather served the Mountaineers well, as Sukley reeled off five service points and Dodson chipped in three spikes to take the second game, 25-14.
In the third, Ashton Wolfrey opened with four service points, including a couple of aces, to give the Hornets a 5-0 lead.
The advantage would be short-lived, as Sukley had a timely block on a spike attempt from Kilby to give the Mountaineers a 13-11 lead midway through the third game. Tanner slammed the door with five service points and four kills during the second half of the game to secure the victory.
Tanner finished with 10 kills, four service points and three blocks to lead Madison County. Jenkins added 12 service points and three aces, while Dodson chipped in 10 points, four kills and three aces.
Kylie Pickett and Wolfrey each tallied five service points to lead Orange County. Brooke Squiers paced the Hornets with two kills.
Madison County has high expectations this season. A year removed from capturing the Region 2B championship and making a state semifinal appearance, the Mountaineers have some unfinished business left to tend to this season.
Overall, Hardy was pleased with the team’s effort.
“It’s the first game and games on a Monday are always tough because you don’t get that day before to practice,” she said. “I thought we did pretty good. Serve receive was a little off, but they really pulled through. We have great leadership. I was pleased with the performance on a Monday, for the first game of the season.”
The Mountaineers will visit the Dragons Thursday at 7 p.m.