ANNA — After a frustrating week that included two five-set losses, Anna’s Lady Coyotes bounced back strong on Sept. 10, sweeping three-straight sets from defending Class 3A state champion Callisburg.
Each set was tight, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22, as the Lady Coyotes prevailed with solid back-row defense and consistent serving.
It was gritty performance by Anna which had shown a tendency of late to fade when things turned bad. This time when things got tough, the Lady Coyotes stayed loose and showed poise. They showed confidence and smiles in the face of 4- and 5-point runs by this opponent and a few lost leads. It was a look Anna head coach Tomika Crosby had been striving for in the face of a 6-15 start this season.
“We’ve been working on the mental aspect of the game,” Crosby said, “not allowing mistakes to continue or getting down when we make a mistake — just bounce back from that. … We’ve got to have fun and we’ve got to work.”
When Crosby speaks of “working on the mental aspect,” she doesn’t mean touchy-feely counseling sessions. Not even close. “I have a backpack that I loaded with these 4-pound medicine balls,” she said. “When a girl makes a mistake and I see that her attitude changes in practice, I make her put it on and get back on the court. She’s like, ‘Coach, I can’t do this.’ And I’m like, ‘When you are stuck there, it weighs you down and you’re not able to do anything else. So you’ve got to let that go.’”
During this match, when Callisburg made a surge, Crosby would mimic taking off a backpack to her players. “That means, ‘Let it go and let’s move forward.’ It’s working so far and I hope it continues. But it’s just day-by-day.”
Defensively, Crosby said, “We still need to get more blocks. I thought we did a better job of digging the ball, playing the back row, reading the hitter. But I need my net to do better and get stops. In our district we have some very aggressive hitters … and we’re going to have to get those stops.
“The offense is looking a lot better. The girls are gaining more confidence in the offense because they’re running it more. We made a lot of mistakes at Paris Chisum and I was OK with that. The only way you’re going to get better at it is if you get confidence in running it. Tonight, it showed.”
This solid win over a successful program comes at a good time for the Lady Coyotes, with three games left before they host Melissa in the district-opener on Sept. 27.
Callisburg has reached the state tournament each of the last three seasons and won it all last year. While hit hard by graduation now, the Lady Cats are a solid program with a veteran coach, Angela Allen.
“It was a very good win,” Lady Coyotes outside hitter Aubreanna Traylor said. “Lately we’ve not been doing so good. This is my last year and I’ve just got to come out here and show them what I’ve got. … We’ve got district coming up and we know we have to win in order to go to the playoffs. That’s where we want to go.”
“It’s a great feeling,” Anna libero Alana Pina said. “We’ve been waiting and we’ve been trying so hard. To work together tonight was a step closer to victory for us. … I think we all had a positive mindset today. Whenever somebody got down we just lifted each other up.”
Rachel Goade led the Lady Coyotes with seven kills, while Gracie Goade posted four and Pina and Traylor chipped in three each. Pina and Haley Thornburg served up a team-high three aces apiece, and Lexi Stewart and Traylor each logged a solo block. Pina also dug up 12 balls and Qua Fisher and Gracie Goade rounded out the double-digit digs list with 11 and 10, respectively. Thornburg put up nine set-assists and Gracie Goad had seven.
In Set 1, after four early ties, Anna charged ahead, 9-6, sparked by Rachel Goade’s tip-over kill and a key stroke from the deep middle by Pina. Callisburg (10-19) tied it at 9-9 with a lob to the middle then went ahead on an ace, but Pina’s back-to-back aces soon had the Lady Coyotes up, 13-10. After a Lady Cats timeout, Stewart came right back with a block and Gracie Goade’s deep kill to the right sent Anna’s lead to 15-11.
A Saniya Myers right-side dig found floor on Callisburg’s side of the net and the Lady Coyotes’ advantage grew to 19-14. Here, the Lady Cats rolled to four-straight points and Anna went to timeout. From there, Callisburg hit two of their next three shots out of bounds and kills from Traylor and Rachel Goade had the Lady Coyotes up, 23-19.
The Lady Cats fought back, getting to within 22-23 on three Anna hitting errors, but Rachel Goade’s big outside swing put the visitors on their heels again. After a Lady Cats timeout, Callisburg got to within 23-24 before sending a serve into the net to end it.
In Set 2, Anna jumped out, 3-0, on Lady Cat hitting errors and then pushed the lead to 5-3 on consecutive kills by Gracie Goade and Stewart. Again the Lady Coyotes would get comfortable leads - this time 11-6, 13-9 - before facing adversity. When Callisburg rolled to four-straight points for a 13-all tie, Crosby called timeout. After just a word or two in the huddle, she backed out and the Lady Coyotes spent the rest of the break laughing and chanting. Staying loose worked as Anna soon regained the momentum at 17-14.
The Lady Coyotes endured more challenges down the stretch, battling past four more ties for a 23-22 edge - buoyed by kills from Rachel Goade and Pina. Callisburg’s hit off the right-side net-boundary antenna and left-to-right shot out of bounds secured Anna’s second win.
Determined to avoid a sweep, the Lady Cats stormed to 12-7 lead in Set 3. But Rachel Goade’s outside kill to the deep-right side ushered in Anna’s 6-1 run to 13-13. A Gracie Goade right-to-left swing then gave the Lady Coyotes a 17-15 advantage.
Callisburg trailed, 19-18, when Traylor got up for the strongest shot of the night – a statement swat from the outside that drew a few gasps. Fisher’s touch-kill to a soft spot in the middle then made it 21-18 as Anna took control. Another Traylor kill - this one with a perfect set from Gracie Goade - kept the lead at three, 22-19. Gracie Goade’s outside slap to the middle took Callisburg to the brink at 24-20 and, after two Anna misfires, the match ended when the Lady Cats failed to get the ball back over the net.
On Friday at Class 4A Farmersville, the Lady Coyotes were topped in straight sets, 8-25, 10-25, 12-25, dropping their season record to 7-16.