ANNA — It’s hard to imagine a better way for Anna head coach Tomika Crosby and the Lady Coyotes to close out non-district play. It has been a tough slog at times for Crosby’s 2019 squad, but at home on Sept. 24 they answered the call when adversity struck and posted a scrappy three-set sweep of Paris. Yes, that would be 22-8 Paris – a team that has reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons.
Anna (8-17) was too much for the Lady Wildcats this night, rallying from behind in each set for gut-check wins of 25-22, 26-24 and 26-24.
“I need this team to show up for district,” Crosby said of the Lady Coyotes’ effort. “If this team that played tonight shows up for district, and we clean up a little bit of the missed serves and blocking errors we had, I think we can be in that top four [for the playoffs]. We can make a run for it. But I need this team to show up.”
Crosby said she appreciated how her charges didn’t get “frazzled” versus Paris. “Every time they would lose that lead, they just continued to play. That’s what we’ve been working on – that no matter what, don’t look at the score, just keep playing. Do what we do, be aggressive at the net, be smart where we place the ball.”
Crosby added that she’d changed up Anna’s defense for this one. “I pulled out something I did five years ago, just to see if it will work. And it worked.”
Something else that worked: During a critical timeout in Set 2, Crosby, who’d perhaps seen her team fade one too many times this season, had some stern words for her charges – words that echoed across Anna’s main gymnasium.
“I’ve been trying to tell them that I don’t want to be ‘that coach,’” Crosby said. “I want them to figure it out and play. But if I have to be ‘that coach,’ I’ll be ‘that coach’ and there will be consequences if I am ‘that coach.’ I’m glad that they responded to it. They understand that it’s not personal.”
Anna’s Lexi Stewart powered to a team-high 15 kills, with more than a few stroked from the middle, while Rachel Goade and Aubreanna Traylor each knocked down 11. Libero Alana Pina and Rachel Goade swung for two service aces apiece and Gracie Goade led with 23 set-assists. Qua Fisher had a team-best 15 digs followed by Haley Thornburg with 13 and Pina with 12.
In Set 1, Anna charged back from an 11-5 deficit with a 5-point run. Fisher’s big outside block started the push and a Stewart kill down the left side cut the lead to 11-8. After Paris’ next shot sailed long, Stewart tipped a kill over the net off serve-receive and the Lady Wildcats went to timeout, up 11-10. Out of the break, Paris promptly rolled to four-straight points aided by three Lady Coyotes hitting errors. Pina’s ace soon knotted things at 22-22 and Paris headed to the bench once more. From there, Stewart sparked Anna to the finish with two kills sandwiched around a Lady Wildcats ball to the net.
Paris jumped out in Set 2 as well using a 5-1 run to get to 10-5. The Lady Coyotes then erupted for five-straight kills to tie, including three in a row from Stewart in the middle, one by Traylor on the outside and one by Ariel Aronow from the right. Anna would trail 18-15 and 22-18 down the stretch – and bounce back each time. Fisher’s left-to-right kill to the corner started the Lady Coyotes’ final comeback and Stewart followed with a tip-kill to the middle. Ties ensued at 23-23 and 24-24 before Fisher got a kill to middle and Rachel Goade slapped home the set-winner.
It was more of the same in Set 3 with Paris holding leads of 13-9 and 16-14 before succumbing. Early on, kills by Fisher, Traylor and Kodi Pitre helped keep the Lady Coyotes close before a Pina ace got Anna to within 16-15. A string of Lady Wildcat hitting errors aided reaching a logjam at 18-all. Pina’s next ace put Anna on top, 20-18, and a pair of Stewart kills increased the lead to 23-19. Paris had one more surge, getting to 24-24 with a kill to the deep left side and a Lady Coyote net ball. But from there, Stewart got Anna to match point with a tip-over kill and Rachel Goade’s big swat ended it.