ARLINGTON – Friday night’s match between Waxahachie and Mansfield Summit had the billing of a heavyweight bout.

The Lady Indians were undefeated and sitting in first place in district. The Lady Jaguars had played tough to Mansfield Legacy before losing in five and stunned the district by sweeping Red Oak earlier in the week.

All the buzz turned into just an early round knock out as the Lady Indians had no problem and made a 25-12, 25-17, 25-13 win somehow look easier than the score indicates.

“We served really well and that kept the ball off the net, which made their offense a little more predictable and easier to defend,” Waxahachie volleyball coach Faussett said. “Their best hitter is a middle and if your passing game is a little bit off, it’s hard to get to the middle. I told them before the match they had to serve really well.”

Summit did have three very impressive front row hitters, but its back row struggled all night corralling Waxahachie shots and serves, which kept the Lady Jaguars from getting in a groove.

“Their hitters are so strong and we knew that coming in,” Faussett said. “Just watching them warm up, you can tell they are going to have a lot coming at you if they get their passing down.”

A big reason Summit couldn’t get anything going was because of the excellent back row play by Emma Hinds, Molly Jeffcoat and Aeriel Horton. 

They made the defensive strategy look effortless and set the table well for hitters Lyndsey Griffith, Ellen Platt and Lisa Trevino.

While everybody played well for Waxahachie, its lone sophomore had the play of the match. Summit hit a high shot and Waxahachie middle blocker Audrey Willett had to retreat from her spot to make a play on the ball, which came very close to the scoreboard above the middle of the court. She kept perfect focus and touched a pass to Shelbie Tucker, who immediately sent it back to Willett, who smashed home the shot.

“That play was sweet,” Faussett said. “Sometimes the ball high to the middle blocker can be tough to handle, but she does it perfectly.” 

Willett and Lauren Atkins have been phenomenal all season long filling in for Sorrel Barnes, who suffered a severe illness that put her in the hospital back in the first week of the season, Aug. 15. 

After missing 30 matches, Barnes returned to the court Friday night.

“It’s amazing to be back. It’s been hard sitting out, but I’ve been so ready for this,” Barnes said. “At first I was nervous, but when I hit my first ball I felt like I could do this and it is feeling natural.”

Her coach thought she played great in her first game back.

“You could tell that she is a step slower than we are used to seeing, but that’s to be expected,” Faussett said. “It’s been a while and it was nice to see her out there.”

Barnes only went through one complete team practice last week so her coach wanted to go a little easy on her Friday. She entered the game in the second set, which allowed Faussett to get a feel for the game and not use Barnes the entire match.

“I was seeing where they were playing one of their hitters and also she just was able to go through a whole work out Thursday,” Faussett said. “So I was seeing how we were playing then I wanted to match her up against one of their players and see how she fared and she was great.”

Barnes’ legs definitely felt the lack of court time.

“My legs are sore today. When we first started practice Monday we played some games and I felt like I did pretty good,” Barnes said. “I felt like I was a little slow at getting to my block, but fast at sprinting.”

The bench went nuts when Barnes got put in the game for the first time and that just shows how close these teammates are.

“These kids all care so much about each other and it means a lot to them to see somebody who has worked so hard get the opportunity to play again,” Faussett said. “They are excited for her and when I called her to put her in the game they all got excited.”

Due to how well her teammates played without her, Barnes knows she’s not just going to be given her starting job back.

“I feel like I still have my spot to earn back and a lot of working out to do. I have a lot of confidence in the whole team. Now I know I have to work at it,” Barnes said. “The girls have stepped it up a lot and I was kind of scared to come back because I have to work so hard to keep up with them.”

The team continues to get good news on injured senior hitter Courtney Miller as she has been medically released to partial participation and the team is going to work her in gradually.

“Our team is getting back to full strength,” Faussett said. “It’s going to keep everybody honest because they are going to have to work for their positions a little bit more, especially the hitters.”

Waxahachie (30-6, 5-0 in 15-4A) visits Mansfield Lake Ridge (8-20, 2-3 in 15-4A) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact Billy at b.wessels@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1454.