WHITESBORO — Melissa dispatched Class 3A Whitesboro in straight sets on Aug. 20 in non-district play at Whitesboro High School, but Lady Cardinals head coach Frank DePaolo was looking for something more. His charges had rolled to comfortable early leads in each set but then let the Lady Bearcats hang around a bit before slamming the door.
Some call it finishing off a struggling opponent. Some call it a “killer instinct.” DePaolo calls it “smooshing the bug” — and he’d like to see more of it by this point in the season.
“There are teams that when they get up by 10 [points], they’re going to win by 15 or 20,” DePaolo said. “Then there are teams, they get up by 10 and they allow themselves to go down. Right now that’s where we are.
“Tonight was an opportunity for them to show me that they could work through some errors – and not many kids did. It seemed like we got worse as the night went on.” He added, “I’m never going to complain about a win. I will say our middles and our setters are starting to click. That was the one bright spot for me tonight. That’s one of our focuses. I want start from the middle and work our way out. That is starting to get there.”
The Lady Cards (12-3) prevailed this night by counts of 25-12, 25-14 and 25-18.
Caroline Kasson and Brooklee Waltrip set the pace for Melissa kills with seven and six, respectively, while Ally Marshall slapped down five and Abbey Maldonado added four. KG Matthews and libero Chelsea George each posted a team-high three service aces, and Ella Branson and Kenzie Segleski served up two each.
Matthews was also the team leader in assists with 12 and she tallied six digs. George led the Lady Cards with seven digs while Segleski collected five. Waltrip and Marshall teamed up for the Lady Cards’ lone block.
After breezing to that 25-12 win in Set 1, the Lady Cards pushed to a 7-1 lead in Set 2, boosted by a big outside slap from Marshall, Maldonado’s right-side kill and a pair of aces from George. Whitesboro crept back to within 9-4 on three Lady Card hitting errors but then miscues hit the Lady Bearcats.
An ace by Matthews sent Melissa’s advantage to 15-5 and Marshall’s next kill made it 16-6.
Instead of getting “smooshed,” though, Whitesboro rolled to four straight points and DePaolo called timeout. From there, the Lady Cards dominated, 9-4, to the finish. Down that final stretch, a right-side kill by Matthews sent the lead to 21-14 and, after Waltrip fired a sharp left-to-right kill to go up 24-14, a carry call on the Lady Bearcats ended the set.
In Set 3, Melissa opened at 6-0 with Matthews serving a pair of aces followed Waltrip’s left-to-right kill and a big combo-block by Waltrip and Marshall. A Segleski ace sent the Lady Bearcats to timeout, down 10-3. Out of that break, the Lady Cards kept the pressure on. Kasson’s outside kill sent Melissa’s margin to 13-5 before Ally Stinton bagged one from the right for a 16-6 edge. But before it was over, the Lady Bearcats made a 4-point run and a pair of 3-point runs – the last coming after Melissa led, 24-15. Two Waltrip kills helped fend off Whitesboro during that push.
Matthews closed out the match with an underhand fist-chop near the net that just cleared the right-side net antenna and found floor near the line.
On Friday at Melissa Middle School, the Lady Cards swept Class 4A Iowa Park, 25-7, 25-15, 25-17. Kasson put up 12 kills to lead Melissa with Matthews and Maldonado next at five apiece. Kasson also collected the team’s two solo blocks. Branson’s 13 set-assists was tops for the Lady Cards and on the dig front, George led with 15 and Kasson tallied 10. George also fired a team high-four aces while Maldonado and Matthews swatted two each.