With a raspy voice and a smile, Briana Montgomery greeted parents and talked to players. Despite a four-game loss to Delta, the new Moffat County volleyball coach liked what she saw.
"I yelled a lot tonight," she said. "The girls came out a little tentative, but We did some different things and it took them a while to adjust."
Montgomery became the Bulldogs' third coach of the short season. Friday, she guided her new team in a tight 19-25, 20-25, 25-18, 25-27 loss.
A new rotation and some players in different positions led senior Kiera Moore to tell Montgomery, "I'm a little lost out there right now," after the game.
Montgomery said she understood.
"I was proud of the way the girls fought back," the rookie coach said. "I threw a lot at them this week, but they've come a long ways since Monday."
Ready from the road
Service errors on the Moffat County end -- 10 in the first two games -- and strong serving from Delta -- four aces and three rallies of five or more points -- gave the Panthers the two-game advantage.
"Our girls came out focused," Delta coach Leigh McLaughlin said. "It's tough to do that after a long bus ride, but they did what we set our goals to do early."
The Panthers led in kills, 10-2, in the first two games.
Different 'Dogs in three
Game 3 started similar to the first two with three service errors in the first seven points from Moffat County.
"Serving is a weakness of this team," Montgomery said. "It's something we will continue to work on next week."
But the Bulldogs soon found a rhythm.
An ace from junior Meghan Innes tied it at 10-10 and a service error from Delta put the Bulldogs up, 11-10. They would never relinquish the lead with several exclamation-point kills from juniors Amy Dilldine and Markie Workman.
"I moved Markie to the middle from the outside this week, and she had to make that adjustment," Montgomery said. "Amy was tipping the ball too much early on, and I had to convince her to hit the ball hard."
Workman and Dilldine combined for seven kills in the third game, and the game winner came from a floater that Workman put inches inside the back right corner of Delta's side.
Up and down four
Moffat carried the momentum into the fourth game with an early 6-1 lead. Delta fought back to tie it, 9-9. The Bulldogs came back to go up, 18-12, with four consecutive points off Workman's serve.
The Panthers weren't done.
They used two Moffat service errors and several long volleys to tie the fourth game, 20-20.
Behind the serve of seldom-used Kelsey Ross, the Panthers went up, 23-20, and were looking to ice the game.
The gym erupted when Moffat junior Angie Charchalis sent a booming shot to the left of the Delta blockers and right on the line to tie it, 24-24.
It wasn't enough to rally the Bulldogs, as Delta pulled out a thrilling, 27-25, win in Game 4.
"We lost our focus after the second game, and you can't do that on the road in this league," McLaughlin said. "We have some strong finishers and a lot of talent on this team. We just have to make sure we finish with that ability."
The win improved Delta to 2-1 in the Western Slope League and 3-4 overall.
Moffat County is now 1-2 in the WSL and 2-6 overall.
'Something for tomorrow'
With a new look, it should have taken a lot of communication for the Bulldogs. That wasn't the case early.
"We didn't talk much out there at first today," she said. "I still have to figure out where everything fits."
Montgomery used a rotation of 10 players consistently through the match. Dilldine said once the team started figuring each other out, they started communicating better.
"We talked a lot better later (in the match), and we hadn't done that," she said. "That made us aggressive, but we played timid when the score got close again."
Dilldine said the big crowd and the improvement were two things to build on for today's match against Palisade at 4 p.m. at Moffat County High School.
"We had the biggest crowd of the year tonight and it helped," she said. "We showed some good things tonight, and hopefully we can build on it."