ANNA – In four tough sets that could’ve gone either way, it was Van Alstyne’s Lady Panthers who prevailed in three of them on Tuesday, Aug. 22, in non-district volleyball action at Anna High School.
Van Alstyne’s victorious line read: 25-20, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21.
A key for the Class 3A Lady Panthers this night — and frustrating for Anna — was Van Alstyne’s ability to recover from 5- and 6-point deficits. And in the decisive fourth set, VA rallied from nine down to win. The battle also featured 27 ties and 15 lead changes.
“At the end of the day, in most of our matches, it has nothing to do with volleyball,” Van Alstyne head coach Veronica Valdez said. “It has everything to do with the energy and the comradery and the communication on the court, things like that.
“Liz Purser had a great night tonight. She kind of came alive. Usually, she’s getting a lot of her kills out of the middle, but we ran her a lot of outside-type hits out of serve-receive. And, man, she did some stuff tonight that I’ve never seen her do. So that was really nice. And Alyssa Hill has just been consistent on the outside for us.”
Valdez also praised freshman setter Valerie Young as well as sophomore libero Lindi Boling. “I’d put her up against any libero,” Valdez said.
Anna head coach Tomika Crosby looked for answers after the back-and-forth clash. “I think we were out of position, defensively,” she said. “Coach [Valdez] saw it. She was telling her girls where to tip the ball, where to place the ball. So tonight, what hurt us was not doing the little things.
“I told [my team], ‘If you expect to win games, you’re going to have to be a defensive team. You’re going to have to be in position, you’re going to have to dig up every ball.’ Too many balls hit the floor at crucial times… Then, at times when we would get that momentum, we would miss a serve — or we’d get that momentum and we would swing and hit it out. We just never got into a rhythm. I mean, you’re up five or six points, you have a lead — and you lose that? So, we’re going back to the drawing board… I know we’ll be OK.”
Anna (5-8) was led by senior Taylor Medrick’s 13 kills and senior libero Micaela Cornelius, who tallied a monster 32 digs. Sophomore setter Bella Boyd led the Lady Coyotes with 20 assists while junior Haley Thornburgh tallied 16.
In Set 1, there were six ties enroute to 8-8. Along the way, Boyd served up two aces, Medrick and Stewart each had a kill, and Thornburg’s ace gave Anna its first lead, at 7-6. After kills from Stewart, Boyd and Hannah Howell pushed the Lady Coyotes’ margin to 12-9, Medrick followed with a long-range, back-handed shot — with her back to the net — that boosted the lead another point.
But two more kills from Howell weren’t enough to keep Van Alstyne from storming back to tie it at 15-all, and from there a Lady Panther service ace put VA up for good. Three Rachel Goade kills in four plays kept Anna close at 19-18, but a kill would send Van Alstyne’s lead to 23-18.
Two calls on Lady Coyotes for being in the net ended the set.
Particularly tough for Anna was its lost chance to flip the momentum in the second set, when the Lady Coyotes let a 21-16 lead slip away. Two Lady Panther aces and a kill drew them to within, 21-19, before Howell’s dink-kill slowed the surge. But Van Alstyne came back with two more kills and two aces to grab a 23-22 advantage. Anna would tie it once more before two Lady Panther kills won it.
Early in that set, a Boyd ace and a block and a kill from Stewart had knotted the score at 4-4. Goade’s kill then had Anna up, 8-4, before the Lady Panthers clawed even at 9-9. The Lady Coyotes went on to leads of 15-11 and 18-11 on Stewart kills, but Anna errors, in part, let Van Alstyne back in it.
A kill-duel opened Set 3, with the two teams popping for a combined eight on the way to 6-6.
Cornelius’ service ace and two more Howell kills put Anna up, 13-9, before two kills by Medrick helped send the lead to 17-12. Again, Van Alstyne charged back to tie and the teams were locked at 19 when the Lady Coyotes pushed out to 23-19 on back-to-back Medrick kills and one from Stewart. The Lady Panthers crept back to within two, 24-22, before a service fault sealed the set for Anna.
The Lady Coyotes looked in control of Set 4, at 17-8, before Van Alstyne rode a 9-1 run to tie it, a push that included five kills and three aces. Boyd’s kill would knot it for Anna once more, at 19-19, and Medrick’s kill made it 23-20, but VA’s momentum would not be denied.
A Lady Coyote ball to the net ended the match.