NOCONA – Melissa’s Lady Cardinals split four matches on Saturday, Sept. 1, the final day of the Buckle Up For Lane’s Sake volleyball tournament at Nocona High School, to finish tourney play at 6-2. Saturday’s wins over Jacksboro and Holliday were balanced by setbacks at the hands of Krum and Callisburg. Melissa (19-9) entered Saturday’s Gold Bracket round after sweeping four pool play matches on Thursday.


This non-district competition at Nocona is named in memory of a local high school student who died in a car accident 20 years ago. The girl was the niece of Windthorst coaching legend Diane Conrady, a good friend of Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo. “It means a lot to her and it means a lot to me,” DePaolo said on Thursday, “so I try to go [to this tournament] when I can.” Conrady won seven state volleyball championships while leading Class A Windthorst from 1992 to 2001.


In Saturday’s opener, the Lady Cards swept Class 3A Jacksboro, 25-13, 25-16, with Melissa’s Caroline Kasson posting a team-high eight kills and Charlie Lane adding eight. Lane also slapped four service aces while Sophia Davis recorded 13 set-assists. Chelsea George collected 12 digs to lead the Lady Cards and Kasson tallied 10.


A tight, two-set loss to Class 4A Krum followed by a count of 21-25, 22-25. Kasson again led Melissa in kills, this time with nine, and Davis put up a team-high 12 assists. George dug up 13 balls, tops for the Lady Cards, and Kasson added 11. Kasson also fired three service aces and Susan Blake hit two.


Next, Melissa rallied from one set down to defeat Class 3A Holliday, 21-25, 25-19, 25-15, as Kasson and Blake teamed for 26 kills with Kasson swatting 15. While Lane and Davis split 32 assists, George led with 10 digs and Kasson added nine. George, Davis, Kasson, Blake and Anna Fortenberry all recorded solo service aces.


Class 3A Callisburg topped the Lady Cards, 25-15, 25-22, to close out the tournament. Blake put up a team-high eight kills and Kasson posted six, while George led with nine digs and Lane added seven. Lane also recorded 10 assists and Davis tallied eight. Kasson also collected two service aces.


To open pool play on Thursday, Melissa faced Class 3A Nocona’s JV squad, a fill-in opponent after a team backed out. The Lady Cards cruised in this one, 25-14, 25-7, boosted by eight service aces with Blake collecting three and Fortenberry and Davis swatting two each. Blake’s seven kills also led the team as Kasson and Lane posted six and four, respectively. Davis and Blake finished with a team-high five digs while Lane and Branson added four apiece. Playing defensive specialist position, George passed for a perfect 3.0 rating. Melissa’s top setter was Davis with 12 and Lane was next with five.


In their second match, the Lady Cards racked up 18 service aces in topping Class 2A Bryson, 25-11, 25-12. Blake and Lane were tops with five each and Davis served three. Out of Melissa’s 18 kills, Kasson and KG Matthews put up a team-high four each and Lane and Blake added three apiece. “They were guarding the line very well,” DePaolo said, “so with that left hand of [Matthews’], she just went right down the line. She got some really good hits.”


Davis rolled to a perfect 3.0 passer rating and George logged a solid 2.5. Davis also led with seven assists and Lane posted five.


Melissa downed Class 3A Henrietta in Thursday’s third match, 25-19, 25-20, a victory highlighted by the Lady Cards’ Set 2 rally from a 20-12 hole. After drawing to within 20-13, Lane served 12-straight points for the win.


“I really want to lift her up,” DePaolo said, “because she has struggled early this season and she struggled late last season with serving.” He noted that he signals in instructions for each serve - for everyone except Lane. At an early match this year, DePaolo said he happened to look away for one of her serves and it was particularly good. He looked way again - this time intentionally - with the same result. “Then I just stopped calling her serves,” DePaolo said. “But she knows my strategies. … At the beginning of that run, they weren’t 100-miles-an-hour serves. After she hits three or four in a row she starts feeling confident about her stroke, then, man, she can really start putting some power on it. It took some good play on our part at the beginning of that run then she just kind of took over. … Not very often do you serve 12 points in a row.”


Lane and Blake finished with a team-high four aces and Kasson fired two. “Susan’s came in the first set mostly with the short serves, which makes it tough on them. Then Charley’s was just power.” Blake also led with six of Melissa’s 23 kills while Kasson notched five and Matthews, Maldonado, Lane and Fortenberry slapped three apiece. “We spread them around a lot,” DePaolo said.


Davis and Lane collected seven digs each to lead Melissa, and Maldonado and Fortenberry recorded single solo blocks. Kasson logged a team-high 10 digs, while Davis and libero Branson popped up six and five respectively. “I pretty much knew their strategy was to attack our setter,” DePaolo said, “make them take the first ball, which is why we didn’t have a lot of assists. It was a really good strategy.”


DePaolo said while the Lady Cards didn’t hit or pass that well, “We did have some key blocks.”


Melissa closed out Thursday’s pool play with a 2-1 defeat of talented Class 2A Lindsay, 25-18, 21-25, 15-13. Blake led with eight kills versus the Lady Knights and Lane posted six. On the dig front, George tallied 17, Kasson had 15 and Branson added six. Branson also recorded a team-high 2.57 passer rating. Davis’ 13 set-assists was tops for the Lady Cards and Lane collected six. Maldonado knocked back four assist blocks and Lane added three.