GAINESVILLE – District mates Anna and Melissa got an early look at one another on Thursday, Aug. 17, at the third-annual North Central Texas College volleyball tournament in Gainesville. Marking the opening tourney match for both teams, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals (9-2) prevailed in two sets, 25-17, 25-20.

Adding more earliness to the best-of-three-sets affair was its start time of 10 a.m.

“Well, we’re not morning people,” Lady Cards head coach Frank DePaolo said. “We had a lot of errors in the first set. We had a lot of unforced errors in the second set. We were playing out of position. I talk to the kids all the time: When they start to guess where they think the ball’s going to go, instead of following the rules of the defense, they usually end up paying for it. We did today. We took a lot of unneeded guesses and we lost. But we were strong enough at the outside hitter position. When we needed to get a point, we got a point from there.”

Anna head coach Tomika Crosby noted her team’s hitting errors and missed serves as well. “Against a team like Melissa, who is strong, you can’t start five points behind and expect to battle back and win a game… It’s early. Whenever we play a district opponent early, I always think: They’re going to get better, they’re going to change some things up — we’re going to get better, we’re going to change some things up… It was good to see what Melissa has, who they have coming back.”

Kills by Melissa sophomore Caroline Kasson closed out both Lady Card wins. Her nine kills for the match led the team, as did her 11 digs and four service aces. Junior Charley Lane produced nine of Melissa’s set-assists and senior libero Brittany Melcher’s back-row passing rated a notable 2.53 from DePaolo.

Kasson was coming off an All-Tournament Team performance at the ASC/Nike Tournament in Denton, Aug. 11-12.

No stats were available for Anna (4-5).

In set one, Melissa jumped out to a 16-9 lead before the Lady Coyotes worked back into the game, 18-14, thanks, in part, to a Taylor Medrick kill and two Lady Card errors. A displeased DePaolo called timeout to refocus his team and soon Melissa took charge. After Stewart’s big block drew Anna to within 20-17, well-placed dinks by Kasson and Susan Blake gave the Lady Cards a 22-17 cushion. At 23-17, Anna called timeout to regroup, but, one Lady Coyote error later, Kasson’s stroke ended it.

In set two, Melissa moved out to a 5-0 lead before senior Grace Whittington’s service ace pushed the Lady Cards’ advantage to 9-3. The Lady Coyotes battled back, helped along with by a Hannah Howell kill and Bella Boyd’s service ace, to trail 10-8. Howell’s next kill tied it at 10-10, and, after Melissa was called for being out of rotation, Anna led 12-10.

That’s when the Lady Cards erupted with three Kasson aces, two Blake kills and kills by Abbey Maldonado and Aubrey Grantham to lead 18-12. But after three Melissa errors and a Medrick kill, the score was knotted again at 19-19. Grantham’s kill regained the lead for the Lady Cards and soon two Anna errors had Melissa at the brink of victory, 24-20. The ensuing match-point volley — finally ended by Kasson — was long, as the Lady Coyotes fought to stay alive. “I told them that’s the way they should have been playing the entire game,” Crosby smiled. “I told them that this year we’re going to have to be a scrappy team. And I guess it clicked for them during the last point that that’s what that means. I was proud that they battled that last point. It was a good little rally.”

The two teams will meet twice more this season — in district play Tuesday, Sept. 26, at Melissa and on Friday, Oct. 13, at Anna.