By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Braves opened their 2012 volleyball season with a three-set sweep of Freeport on Thursday evening. The Braves took an 11-7 lead in the first set and held the advantage at 20-16 before closing out the win with a 25-21 decision over the much younger Bulldogs squad.
The Braves took a 16-11 lead midway through the second set as senior Courtney Brown got hot from the service line to help the Braves build a lead, pushing the margin to 19-11 with a mix of serves that gave Freeport difficulty in breaking her serve. The Lady Braves continued their strong play as they held a 23-15 lead with senior Shalyn Bailey serving out the second set for a 25-16 victory.
The Braves earned the sweep with a 25-18 decision in the third set as senior Sierra Contreras combined with Brown on strong service points to help the Braves pull away from an 11-9 lead to an 18-12 advantage. The Bulldogs fought back to within 22-16 before the Braves ended the match with a 25-18 decision.
Contreras had eight kills to go along with three blocks while Bailey added eight digs and five kills. Freshman Ashley Harper debuted with a strong performance as she posted eight blocks and four digs.
Team Notes: Walton has now won four in a row against Freeport in the series which the Bulldogs lead 14-8 since 2001. Marla Harrell is now 102-75 as the Braves volleyball coach as she begins her eighth season as the leader. Freeport is not carrying a junior varsity team in 2012 and had 11 players dressed for their road opener. The two teams will rematch in Freeport on Sept. 18. Walton was supposed to open the season on Aug. 27 at Fort Walton Beach and Freeport was supposed to host Baker on Aug. 28 but both contests were wiped out by the approach of Hurricane Isaac.