MIDLOTHIAN — Tuesday night in Midlothian did not result in a Lady Indian win on the volleyball court. But the five-set loss certainly left their head coach excited for things to come.
Midlothian (20-11, 3-1 in District 10-5A) took the first set 25-23 before (19-12, 2-2) Waxahachie stormed back for wins in sets two and three, 25-22, 25-23.
"There were a lot of points played," said Waxahachie head volleyball coach Sandy Faussett after her team fell 25-22, 15-8 in the final two thrilling set.
According to Faussett, the Lady Indians spent extra time on serve receive and back-row passing in the days leading up to the match. The practice paid off, as she said her defensive specialists — Bailey Whitehead, Ally Wells, Sarah Sims and Ragan Ward — impressed against Sydney Little and the Lady Panthers. Little's 380 kills trails only the 417 kills accumulated by Mansfield Lake Ridge's Capri Davis in District 10-5A.
Whitehead paced the Lady Indians on the back row with 15 digs, while Taylor Stoops added 10, Lacy Mott had nine, and Sims and Ward had eight, each. The Lady Indians limited the errors, too, accounting for just seven as a team.
Whitehead also led the team with 19 serves received (zero errors), while Sims added 18 (zero errors), Mott had 14 (2 errors), Ward finished with 12 and one error, and Wells accounted for nine serves received to zero errors. Again, as a team, the Lady Indians limited the miscues with just five errors in the serve receive portion of their game.
"I think a DS's job is to try and frustrate the hitters and to make them swing more than once to get it down. Our block has to be effective, too. The blockers job is to take away a portion of the floor, so we don't have to defend it, especially against the Sydney Little's and the Capri Davis'. You don't have time to move a lot against that caliber of player," Faussett explained. "If the blockers can take away a section of the floor, then we can defend around (the block) and our DS's can use their skills to read the hitter and put themselves in a good position to frustrate the hitter."
Most of which transpired on the court Tuesday, Faussett agreed. And the numbers backed it up.
Midlothian, led by 21 kills from Little, finished with a good-but-not-great .187 hitting percentage (52-166), while the Lady Indians converted on 63 of their 152 kill attempts (.224).
"Sydney can cut, hit it over the block or hit it down the line which makes her tough to defend but I felt really good about our defense against her. I mean, she scored her points and she is going to score her points but we just want to limit that and then have an answer on our side."
Lacy Mott led the Lady Indians with 18 kills. Macie Milholen, who Faussett said "really stepped up late in the game," added 15 kills and Essence Clerkley had 11 kills to go with her five blocks.
Stopps and Sims each recorded a pair of aces. Stoops also led the team with 40 assists.
"This was the best we have played all season, and if we can use this as motivation to continue to work hard and make the same type of improvement next week, then there is no telling what we can do," Faussett said. "What we have accomplished over the last week in terms of improvement is just a credit to them, their work ethic and their attitude."
Faussett also added that while, yes, it is disappointing to come up short in a district match against a rival, the Lady Indians should walk away "very encouraged" with their play and execution.
NALLS ON THE MEND
Though an injury has kept Audrey Nalls on the shelf for the Lady Indians this season, the junior was in uniform and went through pregame activities Tuesday — a welcome sight, for sure. Nalls led the team with 683 kills in 2016.
"We went through some growing pains initially, but now we have players that are starting to step up and realize that they are a really, really good team," Faussett said. "But, of course, when we get Nalls back we are just going to be that much better. We are going to continue to play the best players that we have and with who is healthy and be the best team we can be. When the time comes, and Audrey is healthy, then we will see how we can play with her in the mix. And that is exciting."
Nalls will continue to rehab as she works back into game shape.
Waxahachie returns home to host (14-12, 2-2) Mansfield Summit on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in George W. Solis Gymnasium on the Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy campus.
For those who are experiencing District 10-5A for the first time, though the Lady Indians and Lady Jaguars play with two completely different styles, either is capable of winning.
Faussett explained while Waxahachie and Midlothian have similar styles of play focused on being technically sound, there are teams like Mansfield Summit or Timberview that walk out onto the court more athletic than their opponent.
"Where we need to score our points is by serving aggressively and passing the ball well so that we can run a quick offense. We don't match up size-wise with most teams and when we line up across the net we aren't as big as most teams that we play. We have to rely on a tough serving game that hopefully gets them to stand up when they pass and keep the ball in the backcourt so we can defend it easily and pass the ball on target to our settters."
The latter was an issue against Lake Ridge last week and one that Faussett said vastly improved in the loss to Midlothian.
"We knew we had to pass well tonight and we did. That is what made it so competitive. If we don't pass like that then we won't be able to hang, but we did, and that is exciting."