The saying goes: It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
In Burlington Central's case during its nonconference volleyball opener against rival Hampshire Wednesday night, it was not only how the Rockets started, but how they finished.
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The Rockets set the tempo early by jumping out to a commanding 13-2 lead in Game 1 and on the final point of the match, senior middle Makenna Jensen lost her shoe, sent it flying to the Rocket bench and was still able to get the game-winning kill for a 25-11, 25-18 win in both teams' first action of the season in Hampshire.
Lauren Wiltsie led the Rockets (1-0) with 14 kills while Jensen had 6 kills and 4 blocks. The Central offense benefitted from Allie O'Reilly's 16 digs. She was 9 for 10 on serve-receive. Alyssa Detamble was 8 for 8 in that same department with 12 digs. Mandy Barry had 13 assists and 2 blocks.
The Rockets also cashed in on 15 Whip-Pur attack errors in the first game as a young Hampshire squad had visible first-game jitters. That's why good starts are important to Rockets' coach Marv Leavitt this season.
"We would like to be a team that sets the tempo, whether it be our serving or a little faster tempo offense, varying our shots and coming from all different angles," said Leavitt. "We don't want to be predictable because we're not going to be that tall to be predictable. We have to be able to mix it up and really be an aggressive serving team."
Burlington Central held serve throughout the first game, which was something Hampshire couldn't handle. At least 5 serves were redirected out and kills by Wiltsie and Jensen gave the Rockets an early cushion with their heavy hitting.
Hampshire came alive late in the match with the senior combo of setter Brittany Laffin and outside hitter Erin Foss but the Whip-Purs' attacks always seemed too long and Central won the first game on 4-straight Hampshire errors.
"You could tell we were really nervous coming out," said Whip-Purs coach Andrew Lindley. "I thought once we got it together we kind of got our game back and we were playing well."
For the early part of Game 2, Hampshire seemed sharper and led 3-2 behind a kill from Kaila Kienzler. Central regained the lead on a pair of blocks by Barry, a kill from Jensen and a few errors by Hampshire but Laffin set up Foss again to cut Central's lead to 10-7.
Foss had 6 kills and Laffin had 12 assists, a reliable duo that has had camaraderie since freshman year.
"We usually give each other a look and we know we're going to be putting this one down," Foss said.
But the two couldn't do it alone and it seemed whenever the Whip-Purs were gaining momentum, either play in the middle by O'Reilly or blocks from Jensen and Barry plugged any comeback. Jensen's block made it 17-13.
"Blocking is one of the last things that's going to come," said Leavitt. "That's a little more advanced type of skill but what they were doing on blocking is a lot of their natural type of skills. We're working on that but we haven't focused on that as much as our defense right now."
Central closed the game out on 3 kills by Wiltsie and Jensen's -- with one shoe.
"Maddy stepped on my shoe and I just chucked it off because I didn't know where else to put it," Jensen chuckled. "I think we were just losing focus there, and then we regained it at the end and pulled through."