ANNA — After an exceedingly tight first set on Friday, North Lamar came on strong to defeat Anna’s Lady Coyotes, 25-21, 25-19, 25-14, in non-district volleyball action at Anna High School. And by “tight” — Set 1 boasted 14 ties and no more than a 2-point margin for either team until the Pantherettes (13-5) squeaked ahead late, 21-18 — and then Anna tied it once more.
But in Set 2, North Lamar got out to comfortable leads before cruising to the finish, six points up. Set 3 was more of the same as the Pantherettes broke on top, 3-0, and stayed up throughout.
North Lamar head coach Sara Upchurch her team’s slow start may have been due a new rotation, one they hadn’t tried before. “I think a lot of that first set was us trying to get in the groove of things and get in a routine,” she said. “Once we found it we just kind of started rolling.”
For Anna head coach Tomika Crosby, the change was in her charges’ confidence level. “I think tonight we got in our own heads,” she said. “When we did, there was no bounce back from that.
“We were doing the little things [in Set 1]. We were playing defense, we were getting touches on the ball. Even when we were getting blocked we were covering for our hitters. We were making plays.” She added, though, “We had three missed serves in that game. Against a team like this you can’t miss serves. And there were a couple of hitting errors that cost us.
“I told them I want us to be aggressive, I want us to be scrappy. If we’re doing what I ask us to, I’ll take the mistakes. … The mental aspect of the game is what we’ve got to work on now.”
Gracie Goade’s five kills led Anna (6-13) while Lexi Stewart and Aubreanna Traylor posted four each. Haley Thornburg logged a team-high 13 set-assists and on the dig front, Qua Fisher led with 17 and libero Alana Pina collected 12. Pina also slapped the Lady Coyotes’ two service aces and Stewart got up for the team’s lone solo block.
In Set 1, a pair of service aces by Pina helped boost Anna to a 12-10 lead. A series of nip-and-tuck volleys followed before Traylor’s big kill to the deep-right corner put the Lady Coyotes up, 17-16. But back-to-back tip-kills from the middle soon gave North Lamar a 21-18 edge. Rachel Goade’s strong outside shot to the deep middle, followed by two Pantherette hitting errors, knotted the set for the last time at 21. After an outside kill, North Lamar ended it with consecutive block-kills to the middle.
A Rachel Goade kill opened Set 2 and Anna jumped out to a 3-1 lead. But once the Pantherettes rallied for a 5-4 advantage, they never trailed in the match again. A big swing from Ariel Aronow and a pair of kills by Stewart helped keep the Lady Coyotes within striking distance as the set reached its midpoint. Deep kills from Traylor and Rachel Goade sparked Anna’s five-point surge to trail, 22-18, but the Lady Coyotes got no closer.
In Set 3, Kodi Pitre’s third kill of the night got Anna to within 10-7 before the Goades - Gracie and Rachel - teamed up for back-to-back kills to send North Lamar to timeout, up 12-10. Out of the break, the Pantherettes put on an 8-3 run and soon led, 23-14. Anna would score no more.
On Aug. 27 at home, the Lady Coyotes downed 3A Whitesboro in four sets, 25-13, 25-15, 21-25, 25-12. Thornburg led Anna in aces and assists, with five and 18, respectively, and Stewart posted a team-high eight kills. Fisher and Rachel Goade swatted six kills each and Traylor knocked down five. Fisher also dug-up a team-high 17 balls and Pina got to 14. Gracie Goade logged 13 assists.