Friday night lights may be the universal symbol for high school football but it was on the hardwood that Melissa and Anna thrilled fans with the District 12-3A opener that was more than worth the price of admission.
The Lady Coyotes traveled to the "Bird Cage" on Sept. 27 for their first of two district matches this year. Melissa, the defending district champion with only three losses on the season but coming off a two-game losing streak, was playing on its home court. Anna, coming into the game, had limped through September looking to find consistency and was a huge underdog. This, however, was a rivalry game and the Lady Coyotes believed anything was possible.
Right out of the gate, Anna scored the first point when Dei Moreno landed a perfectly placed serve for an ace. Denisha Hampton had a kill on the next volley and a few plays later the Lady Coyotes had a 5-0 lead, forcing Melissa to take a timeout.
The Lady Cardinals fought back after the break, knotting the score at 6-6 and then taking a three-point lead after a big kill from Whitney Taylor that led to an Anna timeout. The Lady Coyotes subsequently scored four straight to regain the lead.
A kill by Connar Newberry gave Melissa the lead again, but a Skylar Van Norman kill knotted the score back up at 15-15. Madison Rose landed a kill to help Melissa tie again at 19-19, and a few plays later the Lady Cardinals called a timeout after Anna was able to go up 22-21.
Amanda Mink had a kill on the next volley, and two plays later the senior outside hitter recorded another as Anna scored the final four points of the game to win the opener and stun the Lady Cardinals.
Melissa went up in the second match early thanks to the wicked jump serve of sophomore Riley Duzenack. She had three straight aces to put the Lady Cardinals ahead, but Anna answered with a run of its own, and a kill by Van Norman tied the game at four.
The teams traded points from there, with kills from Mink and Van Norman fueling Anna while Taylor had a kill and a tip to keep Melissa equal with its guests. Anna went on a 4-1 run that was capped off with a kill by Mink, and the Lady Cardinals responded with a timeout.
The Lady Coyotes scored three more after the break and then closed out the second game 25-20 needing just one more win to take the set.
Melissa has proven, however, that close is never enough if you want to defeat them.
"The girls were still trying to shake off the dust from last week’s loss to Gunter in the first two games," coach Whitney Nelson said. "We finally pulled it together and looked like the veteran team that we are in games three through five."
Duzenack had another stellar start and this one really seemed to rattle the Lady Coyotes. It took almost no time and Anna was trailing 10-1.
Melissa never let off the gas with an ace from Amber Melcher and, with kills from Taylor and Newberry along the way, the Lady Cardinals easily took game three 25-11.
The momentum had fully swung its way, and Melissa was just as dominant in game four, winning 25-15 with Duzenack getting the game point.
In the fifth and final game, Duzenack helped Melissa build an early 5-1 advantage. The Lady Cardinals were able to cruise to the win, 15-6, and take the set 3-2 in the district opener.