MCKINNEY — The Melissa Lady Cardinals’ first set of the 2019 season on Aug. 6 at McKinney North High School was a resounding success. But after that impressive 25-10 win, sets two, three and four were a different story as the Class 5A Lady Bulldogs roared back to take a 3-1 win at home.

McKinney North prevailed, 25-15, 25-20, 25-14, over the final three sets as the team’s height and hitting prowess took its toll on the Lady Cards, the defending Class 4A Region 2 champions.

First-year McKinney North head coach Libby Rodriguez said her team’s set one showing may have been due to youth.

“With a court-full of sophomores and freshmen, I think they had to get the jitters out,” she said. “We just needed to get that (first) game over with. I was really pleased with all of them — after that first game.”

Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo was asked what his team can take from this contest.

“When we’re on, like in set one, we’re going to be hard to stop this year,” he said. “What we’ve got to learn is, against a bigger team like that they’re going to win a set. We can’t get down, mentally. They may even win two sets. But we have to still have the mindset we can win. The bigger teams are going to win by going over the top of us. Our defense definitely has to improve. We’ve got to help cover for our blockers when they’re just not as big as the hitters.”

Senior Caroline Kasson led Melissa with 20 kills — half the team’s total — while sophomore Brooklee Waltrip posted nine and junior Abbey Maldonado added six. Waltrip also recorded a team-high three service aces.

Junior KG Matthews put up a team-best 27 set-assists for the Lady Cards while senior Ella Branson tallied 17. Maldonado and senior Ally Marshall knocked down a solo block each.

DePaolo said McKinney North showed energy in set two and the Lady Cards didn’t match it. Melissa bounced back in set three, scrapping to an 18-18 tie, before the Lady Bulldogs pulled away. From there, McKinney North cruised in set four — leading by a 20-7 count at one point.

“They had more fire-power than us tonight,” DePaolo said. “In order to win that we were going to have to play our best game for the whole match, and we just didn’t do it.”