Anna’s Lady Coyotes put on a furious rally after dropping two sets to Class 5A Princeton on Aug. 14, but after nabbing one win they fell, 24-26, in a decisive fourth set. The Lady Panthers’ line for Sets 1 through 3 read, 25-16, 25-15, 22-25. With this non-district loss at Anna High School, the Lady Coyotes’ record moved to 3-2.

“We had a lot of hitting errors [in Sets 1 and 2],” Anna head coach Tomika Crosby said. “We had started having touches on the ball defensively and started making blocks, but then we weren’t putting the whole game together in attacking the ball. When we were hitting the ball, we were hitting it out of bounds or in the net. I think that affected us those first two games.”

She noted that the Lady Coyotes’ defense improved even more in Set 3.

“We had more blocks - not just touches on the ball but actual blocks. If you can stop them at the net … they’ll change up what they do. And I think they started changing up how they were hitting, trying to hit over the block which gave us an opportunity to play that.”

Crosby said she was glad to see her team realize that being down, 2-0, doesn’t mean a match is over.

“I was hoping for the end result to be a win so they could see that, but at least they know they are capable of coming back, that they have it in them to fight back regardless of the situation.”

“It’s always a battle in Anna,” Princeton head coach Maurice Lock said. “We knuckled down [in the fourth set]. We started making really good sets and really good passes. In the third set, the one we lost, we just passed the ball pretty poorly.” He added, “We got a lot of digs in the fourth. We got balls that in the third set we weren’t getting to. And that’s just effort.”

Hannah Howell collected a team-high eight of Anna’s 33 kills, with Lexi Stewart posting seven and Madison Williams and Rachel Goade logging five each. Out of 31 Lady Coyote set assists, Bella Boyd popped for 17 and Haley Thornburg had 10. Libero Julianne Curiel tallied 21 of 64 digs for Anna, with Lauren Schlicht and Howell each posting 14.

For Princeton (5-2), Julie Milligan totaled nine of the team’s 32 kills and Athena Kirby led with 28 of 32 total assists. Kirby also bagged a team-high 15 of 64 Lady Panther digs and served three of their aces.

Anna started Set 1 in good shape, charging to an 11-6 lead. But a 6-1 Princeton run, aided by four Lady Coyote hitting errors, soon turned the tables. Three more ties would occur before Princeton took separation, 18-15, on a two-hits call on the Lady Coyotes. After an Anna timeout, the Lady Panthers cruised, 7-1, down the stretch for the win.

Princeton picked up steam in Set 2 and never trailed throughout, though the Lady Coyotes stayed within striking distance until giving up a late 8-2 run.

In Set 3, Anna grabbed the momentum with a 4-2 lead on Howell’s left-side kill. The Lady Panthers regained the advantage, 5-4, but Goade answered with a middle-kill to tie and the Lady Coyotes went up, 7-5, on back-to-back Princeton hitting errors. The teams were knotted six more times before Anna made its move at 19-18. This multiple-logjams stretch featured Lady Coyote kills from FeKyra Wells and Stewart, a Stewart block and service aces by Howell and Lauren Schlicht. Goade’s kill from the right pushed the Lady Coyotes’ margin to 20-18 and from there Anna held off the Lady Panthers — notably by Howell’s big right-to-left slap for a 24-22 lead. Williams’ kill from the middle closed it out and Anna had new life.

If winning one more seemed unlikely for the Lady Coyotes - and Set 4 certainly started that way - they didn’t get the memo. Down 11-3 then 19-10, Anna started its improbable march back toward a thrilling finish. Aubreanna Traylor’s kill to the deep left started it and when Stewart’s kill from the right smashed to the floor moments later, the Lady Coyotes were within 20-17. Princeton called timeout, but William’s subsequent block-kill inched Anna closer and two Lady Panther hitting errors made it 20-20. Consecutive kills by Goade and Williams gave the Lady Coyotes a 22-20 edge but Princeton knotted it three more times from there. Tied, 24-24, a Lady Panthers kill brought Anna to the brink and it ended a play later when the Lady Coyotes’ volley didn’t clear the net.