ANNA — There were tears, hugs and laughter after the 2016 Lady Coyotes left the court for the last time on Tuesday, Oct. 25, having clearly given all they had against the best team in District 11-4A.
While Celina’s Lady Bobcats (9-1) prevailed in three sets, the final scores showed each to have been a spirited battle: 25-23, 25-17, 25-23.
“I wanted them to fight and I wanted them to battle to the end, and they did that,” Anna head coach Tomika Crosby said. “We still made mistakes, which we’re going to make, but I wanted them to play to the end. That second set we didn’t play well. We got down, what, 10 points before we decided to play and I told them, ‘Just go out and play, have fun and let’s go out with some pride.’ So they did exactly what I wanted them to do.”
Anna senior Skylar Van Norman collected a team-high 17 kills in the loss.
“It was very emotional, to say the least,” she said of her final match. “But I’m glad that we just didn’t give up and say, ‘Oh, it’s our last game.’ I’m glad we fought, even though the second set was tough. I’m proud of us. I just wanted to go out there and give it our all and I think that we pretty much did that.”
Senior Grace Barnes, who led the Lady Coyotes with 28 assists, echoed Van Norman.
“I was proud,” she said. “We fought. These girls are like a family, so it’s going to be missed. … We were close. We’ve all known each other forever. They’re sisters and they’re always there.”
Junior Taylor Medrick collected 12 digs, tops for Anna, and senior Savannah Kendall added nine more.
In Set 1, Anna (3-7) jumped out to a 4-1 lead, sparked by three straight Van Norman kills, before the Lady Bobcats recovered to tie it at 4-4. Ten more ties would follow before the set was settled. The Lady Coyotes led four times late — 19-18, 20-19, 21-20 and 23-22 — before Celina rallied for the win.
The Lady Bobcats rolled to a 21-10 lead in Set 2 before Anna, with Kendall serving, stormed back to trail, 21-15. A kill and a service ace by Van Norman drew the Lady Coyotes to within 23-17 before Celina closed it out.
Set 3 was another tight contest all the way with eight ties, half of them coming late. The Lady Bobcats pulled away for good at 23-22.
Crosby noted that the season had its surprises, both good and not so good.
“There were some games that I didn’t expect us to win,” Crosby said. “I made sure our schedule was tough, and those tough matches, we came, we competed, we won. So I was happy that we did that.”
On the other hand, she said she still maintained high expectations for her athletes.
“I didn’t think that we would be here… (out of the playoffs),” she said. “I did think that we would be in the top four. I did expect us to be in the top four, based on last year and knowing what I had coming back. … But, hey, I’m still proud of my girls.”
Besides Van Norman, Barnes and Kendall, seniors on this year’s Anna squad included: Sarah Scott, Avery Oonk, Baylee Janak and Hailee Anderson. All were honored before the match.
“I’ve really bonded with these girls,” Van Norman said. “We’re together like every weekend, as much as we can … hanging out, doing whatever. I’m going to miss our little jam-up sessions in the locker room, really singing and having fun. They’re just a great group to be around and I’m going to miss it a lot.”