AUBREY — Melissa’s Lady Cardinals closed out their district slate on Oct. 29 with a decisive three-set sweep of Aubrey on the Lady Chaparrals’ home court. It was a match that meant nothing to Melissa - as far as playoff seeding - but everything to Aubrey. The Lady Cards were already locked in as District 11-4A’s third seed, win or lose, but Aubrey - knotted with 8-1 Celina coming in – had to win for a potential district title and No. 1 seed.
Those Lady Chaps dreams were dashed as Melissa gutted out 25-23, 25-23 wins then dominated Set 3, 25-13. Meanwhile, Celina defeated Sanger to claim the district title.
The Lady Cards (31-11, 7-3) will face Wilmer-Hutchins (19-7, 10-2) in the bi-district playoffs at 7 p.m., Nov. 4, at Hebron High School.
“Obviously, it would be easier if we were 1 or 2 [seed],” Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo said, “but being at the 3 I think we did ourselves a favor. We match-up really well now for a third-round opponent, which would be Aubrey. … But because we’re third, our second-round opponent is going to be pretty tough - Kennedale. Last year, we really didn’t have a tough match until Community in Round 4.
“I have every confidence that we have, in the last two weeks, learned to be consistent when we’re out of system and learned to crush the ball when we’re in.”
Melissa fans will recall that Aubrey had gotten by the Lady Cards in five grueling sets at Melissa’s Bird Cage on Oct. 11. It was a tough defeat for Melissa on its home court, but this night that loss was avenged.
“I feel like this team does a really good job of learning from the first time they play a team,” DePaolo said. “Every time we’ve lost to a team, if we’ve play them again we’ve played them better. No patting on the back here, but give me two-and-a-half weeks to find a game plan that’ll work - and I think I did.
“We concentrated where 75-percent of the balls were going - which was their middles and their outsides. We allowed the right side to beat us if they threw it out there. They just weren’t on tonight.”
Melissa’s Caroline Kasson pounded out 20 kills and fired six service aces in the win. Abbey Maldonado led the Lady Cards with four assist-blocks and Brooklee Waltrip was in on two. Kasson logged the team’s lone solo block. Waltrip also posted seven kills, second-highest for Melissa, and Chelsea George and KG Matthews collected a team-high 13 digs each. Setters Ella Branson and Matthews put up 18 and 15 set-assists, respectively.
Set 1 featured 17 ties and seven lead changes as the Lady Cards showed they came to play. Neither squad held more than a 2-point lead throughout the contest - and Melissa’s didn’t come till it mattered: at the end. Down the stretch, Maldonado’s tip-over middle kill put Melissa up, 20-19, but two Lady Cards hitting errors gave Aubrey the upper hand again. After a Kasson right-side tip got it back to even, 21-21, the Lady Chaps answered with a kill to the deep left side. Waltrip’s big outside swing tied it at 22-all before Aubrey tipped one to the middle for the lead once more. A double-hit call on the Lady Chaps knotted the score again and from there, Melissa made its decisive move – a Matthews ace followed by Waltrip’s kill to the middle for the win.
Set 2 was another equal joust as the Lady Chaps scrapped to flip the momentum – a district-title shot still dangling before them. The Lady Cards led most of the way this time but 3- to 4-point Aubrey runs kept the Lady Chaps in it. Melissa’s lead was 19-18 when Kasson took a little off a shot and dropped it into the vacant middle for a kill. Aubrey finally caught Melissa at 21-all and again at 22-22 but the effort went for naught. Two Lady Chaps hitting errors followed and, after a Melissa service fault to the net, Kasson’s outside kill to the deep middle closed it out.
Melissa rolled in Set 3, getting to leads of 12-5 and 19-6 as Lady Cards fans anticipated an early drive home. At one point, Kasson knocked down three-straight outside kills, as big slaps from Matthews and Waltrip added to the rout. With Melissa up, 22-9, Aubrey chipped back to trail, 23-13, but that would be it for the Red-and-Blue. After a Lady Chaps hit out of bounds, Kasson’s sixth ace of the night ended the match.