MELISSA — Melissa stayed in hot pursuit of first-place Celina and second-place Aubrey on Oct. 15 with a three-set sweep of Anna in district volleyball action at Melissa Middle School. The winning ledger read 25-13, 25-11 and 25-16 as the Lady Cards (4-2) powered past Anna with what Melissa fans have come to expect: big swings from all over the court and solid defense. The Lady Coyotes kept Set 3 close through the middle stages but it wouldn’t be enough.
With four district outings left, the Lady Cards control their own destiny for second place in District 11-4A but will need help to reach the top spot.
Melissa outside hitter Caroline Kasson — who’s closing in on 500 kills for the season - knocked back a game-high 17 kills versus the Lady Coyotes while teammate KG Matthews chipped in six, mostly from the right side. Kasson and Abbey Maldonado posted two solo blocks each, and Maldonado and Brooklee Waltrip pumped out a service ace apiece. Ella Branson recorded a game-high 18 set-assists and Matthews logged 13. Libero Chelsea George dug up a game-high 14 balls.
Anna (1-5) was led by Aubreanna Traylor and Rachel Goade with five kills each as setters Haley Thornburg and Gracie Goade both recorded nine assists. Libero Alana Pina collected nine digs and Fisher and Gracie Goade were next with six apiece. Thornburg and Stewart each served up an ace and Stewart logged Anna’s lone solo block.
“When [Anna] warmed up, their hitting was good and their setting was a little bit better,” Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo said. “I just think, overall, our defense is better — we get some digs, our free-ball passes are more accurate. Then I think our setters did a good job tonight. There were a few spots in there where we were setting exactly where the ball was passed and they were kind of ready for it. But for the most part, our setters moved the ball around pretty well.
“In the third set, we got a lot of people in and I thought everybody that got in played well tonight.”
Anna head coach Tomika Crosby said mistakes hurt the Lady Coyotes again. “In the first set, we had eight hitting errors and four blocking errors. You give a team like this 12 points, you can’t come back from that. And the first and second sets, I think we had maybe a total of six missed serves. You’ve got to play almost a perfect game against a team like this.”
Crosby said she’d told her team to play more aggressively in that third set. “I said, ‘Don’t play safe. Don’t worry about mistakes because we have nothing to lose right now.’ … We started serving the ball a little bit more aggressively, taking chances and just swinging at the ball. And it helped.”
The Lady Coyotes had just earned their first district win of the season at Gainesville three days prior to this match. Melissa was coming off a tough five-set loss to Aubrey at home. DePaolo said his team responded well with solid practices the next day, adding, “When we walked out the door, heads were high, shoulders were high. I didn’t get on to them. The thing I talked to them about was the way we didn’t come to play in Set 1 and 2 [versus Aubrey] — well, didn’t finish Set 1 and play Set 2. I thought we played Set 3 and Set 4 really well, so I concentrated on that.”
Friday’s Set 1 saw four early ties, the last at 6-6. Kills by Anna’s Fisher and Traylor - and a Stewart net-kissing ace - were offset by two kills from Marshall and one by Kasson. The Lady Cards took their first real separation at 13-8 after three-straight outside kills by Waltrip. Melissa jockeyed four- and five-point leads until Kasson blasted a shot to the middle for the Lady Cards’ first six-point lead of night, 17-11. After a Maldonado middle kill to the back line, Kasson soon skied for another monster swing and Melissa led, 21-11.
Traylor got Anna’s final point of the set, a right-side kill down the line that trimmed the deficit to 22-13. Matthews took over from there, sending a sharp-angled right-to-left kill down the Lady Coyotes’ front row and — after an errant Anna ball — slapping an outside kill to the middle to end it.
Anna got out fast in Set 2 but was soon overtaken by hitting errors and trailed, 6-2. After a Lady Coyotes timeout, five Kasson swings and a block by Maldonado helped boost Melissa’s lead to 15-6. An outside kill from Fisher followed by Stewart’s outside block stemmed the tide for a moment but the Lady Cards soon marched on to 19-9, a push capped by Marshall’s deep kill to the middle. Rachel Goade and Stewart fought back with single kills down the stretch before Melissa closed it out.
In what would be the nightcap, the Lady Cards charged to a 9-4 advantage before Anna bounced back to trail, 10-9, on single kills by Traylor and Kodie Pitre and a pair from Stewart. Two right-side kills by Gracie Goade got the Lady Coyotes close again at 14-13, but their push to salvage at least one set soon faded. Matthews’ middle kill to the right and a Kasson block soon had Melissa up, 19-13, and the Lady Coyotes got no closer than three points from there. Matthews’ right side kill and a Maldonado ace helped keep Anna at bay at the finish.
On Friday, the Lady Coyotes (1-6) fell to Aubrey (6-1) in straight sets, 25-10, 25-15, 25-8.