MELISSA — Volleyball fans at Melissa Middle School on Sept. 3 certainly got their money’s worth. The varsity Lady Cardinals and Gunter slugged it out for five sets this night — two full hours on the court — before Melissa claimed the hard-fought non-district victory.
The Lady Cards (20-5) scrapped to a 28-26 win in Set 1 then dropped two close rounds before rallying to take Set 4, 25-13, and the closer, 15-11. Lady Tigers’ winning margins in Sets 2 and 3 were 25-20, 25-21.
This down-to-the-wire episode was no real surprise as these teams had engaged in a similar struggle three days prior at Nocona — a match also won by Melissa.
“They’re a young team,” Lady Cards head coach Frank DePaolo said of Class 3A Gunter. “They don’t have any seniors. I think there are three freshmen on their team. So I knew that there were going to be mistakes on their part. … But I also knew [those freshmen] are on varsity for a reason and they’re going to get on a couple of runs. And they did that to us.”
He added, “They have some pretty good serving and they kind of exposed our serve-receive errors again.”
“We planned really well to play this team,” third-year Gunter head coach Katelyn Gill said. “The kids came in and executed the game plan for the most part. … They stayed resilient and tried to fight through anything the other team gave them.”
Melissa’s Caroline Kasson pumped out 18 kills and 22 digs, both team-highs, while Brooklee Waltrip posted 13 kills and setter KG Matthews chipped in seven. Ally Marshall got up for a team-high three solo blocks and logged five kills. Matthews led the Lady Cards with 23 set-assists and also slapped two aces. Libero Chelsea George dug up 21 balls, and hit two aces with a pair of assists. Recently called-up freshman Saniah Anthony posted four kills.
Gritty Set 1 included 12 ties and just one lead greater than three points. The Lady Tigers had slim leads four times after the logjam at 20-20 but couldn’t make them stick. With Gunter up, 23-21, Marshall skied from the middle for a big down-slap kill and Kasson followed with a block to tie it again. The Lady Bulldogs served for set point twice more and each time suffered a hitting error. After 26-all, Kasson ended it with back-to-back outside kills.
In Set 2, Gunter held comfortable leads of 21-10 and 24-14 before the Lady Cards mounted a late 6-point run. Two kills and an ace from Waltrip and a Matthews ace led that charge but the Lady Tigers finally got the one they needed with a sharp left-to-right kill.
Set 3 was tighter down the stretch, with ties at 18-18, 19-19 and 20-20, but Gunter would get to 23-20 on three-straight Melissa hitting errors. Matthews’ right-side kill came next but a Lady Tigers kill and double-hit call on the Lady Cards finished the set.
The Lady Tigers’ hopes of closing it out in Set 4 faded fast as Melissa jumped ahead, 7-2 then 17-8. Back-to-back middle kills by Marshall, a pair of big outside swings from Kasson and a Waltrip ace boosted that early surge, while three right-side kills from Matthews aided the next one.
Two-straight Lady Card kills from the outside - one by Marshall, one by Waltrip - and a Matthews ace boosted the lead to 22-10. From there, Gunter managed two kills to the middle but Melissa’s margin grew on to 24-13. The Lady Tigers’ next serve sailed past the end line, ushering in Set 5.
As some fans perhaps double-checked their DVR settings, Gunter moved out to a 3-1 lead in the finale. But two kills and an ace from Kasson quickly got things back to 4-4. A Lady Tigers hitting error followed by Matthews’ big right-side swing to the deep-middle gave Melissa its first lead of the set, 6-4, but, of course, this match went to 5 for a reason.
Gunter knotted it again at 7-7 then went ahead, 9-7, when the Lady Cards let a ball drop – a miscue that sent them to a timeout.
Out of the break, Matthews fired another deep kill - this one left-to-right – and Melissa was within 1. Moments later, Kasson’s outside kill to the middle tied it again, 10-10, an a photo finish looked likely. Here, though, after taking an 11-10 lead on an errant Melissa block, the Lady Tigers blinked. Three-straight Gunter hitting errors put the Lady Cards on top, 14-11, and Chelsea Geller finished off the match with an ace.
At home again on Friday, Melissa was topped in four sets by a strong Krum squad. The Class 4A Lady Bobcats (21-5) claimed the first two sets, 25-18, 25-11, fell in Set 3, 23-25, then cruised to a 25-16 win in Set 4.
“Everything went right for us in Set 3,” DePaolo said. “It was the only set out of the four where we hit above .200 as a team, which is a goal as a team. And I thought we made good setting decisions in that set.
“In the two big losses … our serve-receive was a little bit down but we had serving errors quite often and we had some mental errors. They have a solid team. They play really solid defense. ”
Said Krum head coach Lynn Larson, “I thought we did a really good job from the serving line. We also dug some pretty good balls tonight. … They have two really good outside hitters that are hard to stop. We got them out of system quite a lot from the serving line. … In the third set they served really well against us. They did the same thing to us.”
Kasson logged a team-high 13 kills versus the Lady Bobcats and Matthews was next with six. Setting-wise, Matthews led the Lady Cards with 17 and Branson posted 12. Marshall and Kasson collected two solo blocks each, and George led Melissa with 25 digs.
Lady Cards hitter Abbey Maldonado missed both matches last week due to illness.