ANNA — Melissa’s Lady Cardinals began their district slate on Friday with a dominant three-set sweep of Anna at Anna High School. The defending District 11-4A co-champion and a state semifinalist last year, Melissa looked ready to notch another memorable campaign.


The final result: 25-17, 25-18, 25-15.


While the Lady Coyotes made some runs they led just once - 2-1, in Set 2 - and never gained enough momentum for a big push.


Caroline Kasson, the 2018 Class 4A Player of the Year, knocked down 15 kills and slapped four service aces for the Lady Cards - both game-highs - while teammates Ella Branson and Brooklee Waltrip popped for three aces and six kills, respectively. Melissa’s KG Matthews logged a game-high 19 set-assists as libero Chelsea George got to a team-high 17 digs. Kasson and Mallorie Power posted 10 digs each.


“We got off to a good start in the first set and we got off to a good start in the second set, then all was good,” Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo said.


The Lady Cards were without hitters Ally Marshall and Abbey Maldonado due to injury, but others stepped up. “We had ‘Mighty Mite’ [Kenzie Segleski] in there,” DePaolo noted. “She’s doing a really, really good job - playing really big. She was playing middle for us and even had a stuff block.”


Aggressive serving kept Anna on its heels much of the match. “That’s in our district-wide game plan, to become tougher servers,” DePaolo said. “We’ve been working on that for a couple of weeks. So in the last two games … we kind of started instituting it.”


DePaolo did point to some areas needing improvement. “I wish there was little more consistency,” he said. “When we’re out-of-system, we have been practicing … trying to put the other team out-of-system. We’ve already lost the opportunity to get a hard kill, so let’s go put them out-of-system and maybe we can get something back easy and we can then kill the ball.


“I thought there were a couple of opportunities where we hit the ball out of bounds or we hit a ball into the net, when all we had to do was just roll-shot to a corner and make them play volleyball. And I was a little disappointed in the final score in all three sets. But I’ll never get mad at a win in district.”


Anna head coach Tomika Crosby wanted more consistency from her squad as well.


“One minute the pass was good, then the set would be off,” she said. “The next minute, the pass would be good, the set would be good and we’ll hit out of bounds or hit the net or get blocked and not cover. So we never put the whole game together.


“They’re a very aggressive team when they serve. We knew that coming in. I told them we’ve got to have that first pass in order for us to be effective. That didn’t happen and it kind of threw us off. We were having to scramble a lot of times. We played from behind the whole time, then at crucial moments we’d miss a serve. It’s just trying to get over that hump.”


Aubreanna Traylor led the Lady Coyotes with six kills and Lexi Stewart chipped in four. Traylor also collected two assist blocks while Ariel Aronow, Gracie Goade, Rachel Goade and Stewart recorded one each. Qua Fisher dug up a team-high 17 balls and libero Alana Pina added 11. Haley Thornburg and Gracie Goade recorded eight assists each while Pina, Thornburg and Stewart served up one ace apiece.