RED OAK — If the Texas Girls Coaches Association No. 4 and 10-5A District Champion Lady Indians do finish their district schedule undefeated for the first time in more than a decade, the matchup with playoff-bound Red Oak High School may have been a fitting stepping stone on a historic path.
It may not matter that Friday night's four-set victory at ROHS Competition Gymnasium could be considered a departure from their usual surgeon-like precision, either.
"It's as they say sometimes, 'An ugly win is still a win,'" said Sandy Faussett, the head volleyball coach at Waxahachie High School. "We really struggled with our passing game which made us struggle with our passing game. It kind of snowballs. We didn't execute and missed a lot of serves. We missed 16, so I'd say that's pretty ugly."
Though they won the first, second and fourth sets 25-18, 25-21 and 25-18, the Lady Indians struggled during a 22-25 third, committing 13 of the team's 55 total unforced errors. Red Oak, behind four kills by Katie Hess, a 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter, and three from Serena Patterson, a 5-foot-9 junior middle hitter, outpaced Waxahachie and won by a three-point margin.
The rotation of Hess, Patterson and junior middle blocker Keyeria Tyeskie helped stifle a Lady Indian rally capped by five consecutive kills by Nalls, Ward, Six and senior outside hitter Shelby Martin. Of the five points scored during the run, Martin was involved with three — either by swing or assist.
Red Oak also used three aces from Hess, Patterson and Tyeskie and combination stuff block from Tyeskie and freshman outside hitter Hailey Hunt to cool the red-hot Lady Indians in the third set. Waxahachie's stumble marked the first set surrendered since facing Midlothian High School in five sets on Oct. 7.
It wasn't only the third that may have stuck in Faussett's craw, though.
Despite hitting a collective .333 — led by sophomore Audrey Nalls (.400), senior Madelyn Ward (.379), sophomore Essence Clerkley (.375) and senior Megan Six (.316) — Waxahachie's serve percentage (.821) and pass-receive ratio (1.55) were some of the lowest totals of the season in the respective categories.
"Audrey and Madelyn had outstanding nights and Essence played one of her best games this season," Faussett said, crediting her hitters with helping hide the deficiencies in the serving game. "One hundred twenty-nine attempts and only 12 errors isn't bad, either. It was also good to see Amarie (Hester) come out and swing aggressively, serve well and play great defense. We need to clean up some areas of our game, but overall, I'm pleased with the way the girls fought tonight."
Nalls and Ward led the team in kills, but Clerkley (3 kills, 2 digs, 1 block), Hester (2 kills, 5 digs, 1 ace) and senior Kendyll Armstrong (10 serving points) produced set-saving sparks that either preserved rallies or killed slumps.
The ability to win on another team's court, whether at the pinnacle of perfection or with the grittiness of grind-it-out play, also weighs heavily into the Lady Indians' excellence this season. Including the win against Red Oak, Waxahachie is 12-0 during road games — a slight improvement from their 8-2 record in 2015.
Their road resilience won't only be tested when they face Mansfield Timberview High School at 5:30 p.m. Friday at MTHS Gymnasium, it will be tried on the landscape of the University Interscholastic League 5A playoffs, Faussett said noting (15-22) Burleson High School, the team's recently released bi-district round opponent.
"I've felt we've always been a really good on-the-road team because we don't let things affect our play," she said. "Since you don't play any playoff game on your home court it's a huge factor. You have to be able to get comfortable in any gym. The court doesn't change, it's still 30 by 30 and you've just got to play."