ANNA — Anna’s Lady Coyotes kicked off their 2017 season on Tuesday, Aug. 8, with a three-set sweep of Pilot Point at Anna High School. Big hitting from Hannah Howell, Taylor Medrick, Lexi Stewart and others proved too much for the Lady Bearcats as Anna’s squad won going away in Sets 1 and 3 and showed they could handle pressure in a nail-biter second set.
The final tally was 25-14, 29-27, 25-13.
Other happenings in and around this contest lent to an interesting evening as well: no a/c, which made for a tropical sauna-like experience; an Anna player’s nose bleed, which led to the team playing a decisive point with just five players; technical problems that kept Lady Coyote stats from being recorded; and multiple play stoppages while referees noodled over proper substitution etiquette.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Anna head coach Tomika Crosby said, “because a lot happened tonight. But, overall, I saw the positive things that I saw this weekend [at our scrimmages]. This is going to be a fun group to watch and they usually bounce back. That second game, when we were down, they stayed under control and - one point at a time - came back. Even in all the excitement, they were able to stay focused and play.”
Anna ruled the Class 3A Lady Bearcats in Set 1, charging to a 12-2 lead. The tone was set early as Howell opened with a service ace followed by a sharp kill from Medrick. Sophomore Rachel Goade was next with a kill, pushing the Lady Coyotes’ lead to 5-1. Three straight kills — two from Medrick, another by Goade — made it 8-2 before back-to-back service aces from Medrick drove Pilot Point to a timeout, down 10-2.
Junior Lauren Schlicht kept the pressure up out of the break with another Anna kill, followed soon after by senior Micaela Cornelius’ ace which stretched the Lady Coyotes’ advantage to 14-4. Consecutive aces by Stewart pushed Anna’s lead to 20-6 before the Lady Bearcats rallied for five straight points. But it wasn’t enough as the Lady Coyotes put it away late, fueled by another Medrick kill and an ace from sophomore Haley Thornburg.
In Set 2, Pilot Point fell behind early, 5-1, but soon began to show that this game would be different. The Lady Bearcats rallied to tie things at 5-5 and 6-6 before taking their first lead of the match at 7-6. It was knotted again at 12-12 when Pilot Point started to pull away. Aided by two costly Anna service faults, the Lady Bearcats owned a 22-15 lead and looked ready to pull even in the match. That’s when the Lady Coyotes, with Medrick serving, responded with five straight points to send their opponents back to timeout.
Six more ties and four set points would follow as the teams volleyed and scratched for the win. Finally, after Anna took a 28-27 lead on a Medrick kill, the unexpected happened. Goade came off the court with a nose bleed and the Lady Coyotes had no one left to substitute in.
“I had already used up all the girls on my bench,” Crosby said. “They’d already stepped in for someone, so they can’t sub in for someone else. Since she still had blood on her jersey, she couldn’t come back on the court and we couldn’t put anyone in her place. We would’ve been out of rotation and they would have stopped the game. So I had to play with five. I’m thankful it was only for one point.”
Indeed, Howell got Anna out of the precarious spot quickly, belting a service-ace winner when play resumed. Of that thrilling set, Crosby said, “They kept telling me how hot it was and I’d say, ‘Girls, everybody is playing in the same conditions. So you’ve got to get it together, compose yourself and just play.’ … And they did that.”
Crosby said Goade’s nosebleed was not from physical contact.
The Lady Coyotes controlled Set 3, highlighted by two kills and a nice service run by Howell, a Stewart ace and a kill from junior Bella Boyd. Medrick closed it out with two late blocks, including the match-winner. “Going into the season,” Crosby said, “I knew that [senior] Taylor and [junior] Hannah were going to be those strong hitters. And it was evident tonight. And Lexi is just a pleasant surprise. As she begins to play more and more, that confidence is coming in. She’s not afraid to swing, she’s not afraid to take chances. I like that about her.
“All those girls at the net, I told them to be aggressive and I gave them the freedom to run plays and do what they feel comfortable doing. And I told them, ‘If you mess up, I’m not going to get upset about it.’ That’s the only way you’re going to build that confidence.”
As for the evening’s extracurricular touches, Crosby said, “When I say everything that could happen happened in the first game — I mean, everything that could happen happened in the first game.”