Bluffton volleyball coach Al Stern wants you to make no mistake about it. The Class 4-A playoffs are a lot tougher than the Class 3-A were.
Maybe it bodes well for the eighth-ranked Bobcats that they had little trouble with West Florence in their 4-A playoff opener on Tuesday, downing the Knights 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-16).
"They played well, our defense was good," Stern said. "Overall, I was happy with what we did. They did block us more than I thought they would, though."
West Florence was as much its own enemy as Bluffton was. The Knights committed a lot of errors in the first two games, which the Bobcats (37-8-2) won with little drama.
In the third game, at least initially, Bluffton joined in on the sloppy play.
"I think our girls may have let up this much," Stern said, holding his thumb and forefinger a minuscule distance apart, "and in a sport this mental, this much matters a lot."
Bobcat Mackenzie Cooler had a nice match on the day she was named to her second straight all-state team. The junior tallied 14 kills, 14 assists and six digs.
Jordan Franklin, also named all-state Tuesday, had eight kills and 16 assists.
Grace Collins had seven kills and three assists, Madison Cooler added seven kills, Abby Roulston had six kills, and Morgan Delaplane had seven digs.
Stern said the Bobcats would work on avoiding blocks before hosting Lexington on Thursday, likely at 6 p.m.
"If you hit smart, you can avoid a lot of blocks. You can go off the top of it or to the side of it," Stern said. "It's insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect something different. One thing the hitters need to work on -- and our setters need to know, too -- is knowing where the blockers are."
Lexington likely won't make as many errors as West Florence did. The Wildcats are ranked No. 7 and could be the start of a difficult run for the Bobcats.
Stern said in 3-A, there might only be two or three ranked teams in the entire Lower State bracket, and often you wouldn't face one until the third round.
But after their 4-A opening-round win, the Bobcats host Lexington on Thursday, and if they continue to win, their next two matches could be against No. 3 Wando and then No. 5 Aiken. And that's just to reach the championship, not counting who the Bobcats might have to face to win it.
"4-A is a lot tougher," Stern said.