ANNA — Anna (3-5) stayed alive in District 11-4A’s playoffs race with a thrilling five-set, come-from-behind win over Princeton (3-5) on Oct. 18. After dropping two sets, 25-17, 25-21, the Lady Coyotes were two points away from losing the match, trailing 23-19, when they erupted for six straight points and a 25-23 Set 3 win.


The key factor in that match-saving surge was junior Taylor Medrick’s three straight service aces that pulled Anna even with the Lady Panthers at 23-all.


“I was really nervous,” Medrick said. “I was shaking because they were big — they were really important in order for us to get that win. Honestly, I was just thinking, ‘Over and in, over and in.’ I was just kind of searching for those holes in the court and just hoping I could hit them.”


Anna head coach Tomika Crosby said she was pleased with Medrick’s ability to overcome.


“I was proud of her,” said Anna head coach Tomika Crosby. “And I told her I’m proud of her, because she was struggling in the first two sets. She struggled with her serving. … That was big for us. Real big.”


Brimming with confidence after Set 3, the Lady Coyotes took Set 4, 25-20, and battled through five ties in the decisive fifth set for a 15-12 victory.


“I am just proud of the girls,” Crosby said. “That’s what we worked on all day yesterday. That’s all practice consisted of — how to stop them, how to play defensively. … They made it a hard game, because the first two sets we struggled. We were not being aggressive, not playing the way I instructed. ‘You have to trust me. Play the game. Play the game.’ And they played the game.


It was a mantra that was repeated throughout the match.


“When you’re down by two sets, you’re nervous or you’re coming in kind of playing scared, I told them, ‘We’ve just got to go play our game,” Crosby said. “‘If we lose playing our game, I’ll take the loss. But I don’t want to lose not playing our game.’ After winning that third one — the confidence, you saw it in them, I saw it in them — and they began to play.”


All told, senior Skylar Van Norman led Anna with 24 kills and 18 digs, and senior Grace Barnes racked up 26 assists. Senior Avery Oonk added a team-high 14 digs for the Lady Coyotes.


Before Set 5, Crosby said she told her team that they had to “learn to finish.”


“(I told them to) anticipate the fact that (Princeton) had missed some serves,” she said. “… And they’re probably not going to do that this set, so you’ve got to be ready to play better defense.”


The Lady Coyotes quickly fell behind in Set 1 and never really threatened the Lady Panthers. Set 2 featured 10 ties, but Anna still came up short. And then came that third-set magic.


Now, with two matches left in the regular season — at Aubrey, on Friday, Oct. 21, at home versus Celina the next Tuesday — Anna must keep winning to make post-season play.


“Friday night is a big game for us,” Crosby said. “We have to win Friday night. If we win and (Princeton) beats Bonham, then we’re still tied (with Princeton).”


Medrick added, “Now that we have this win, I think it kind of helps with our confidence, and I believe we can go make the playoffs.”


_________________________________________________