There is a reason Waxahachie and Midlothian square off with one another to open the volleyball season, the electric atmosphere.
In what felt more like a playoff game than the first game of the season Monday, Waxahachie edged Midlothian in four sets, 25-8, 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, to win the battle of two of Ellis County’s top volleyball teams.
“This the first game of the year and it is a playoff atmosphere. In fact, the Midlothian coach and I were just talking about that,” Waxahachie coach Sandy Faussett-Stoops said. “It is great because it adds a lot of pressure to the situation. They are our rivals. We love playing them, we love beating them. We will not get another atmosphere like this until we play Red Oak or in the playoffs. It is kind of a good game because you get that additional pressure, which I love.”
Behind the strong serve of Cara Partington, Waxahachie rolled to a 6-0 lead to start the game before Midlothian broke the hot start.
Waxahachie picked right back up and took leads of 11-1 and 18-8 before Partington stepped back to the line.
The senior captain served seven consecutive points to end the match as Waxahachie looked like it was about to sweep its county rival.
“I love the way we came out and played real aggressive. In the first game they only earned two points, we were just playing really polished,” Faussett said. “You could see as the night went on we got a little more nervous, a little more tentative, we were not hitting the ball, we were a little off as the nerves came into play a little more later.”
Midlothian did not drive to Waxahachie to be swept in three and fought back early in the second set. There were four ties and two lead changes through the first six points before Waxahachie took a 7-5 lead on an ace by Partington.
Waxahachie held the slight lead until late in the match, when Midlothian took an 18-17 lead with junior Kelli Markwardt at the service line.
Midlothian (0-1) took a 19-17 lead before a kill by Waxahachie senior captain Kate Praslicka made it a one-point game, 18-19, and gave Waxahachie the serve.
With Kristen Foster at the line, the Lady Indians controlled the final seven points to win by six as Praslicka accounted for three of the final seven points before Foster ended the match with an ace.
Facing a must-win situation in the third set, Midlothian responded with its best set of the night.
The Lady Panthers took a 4-3 lead and never surrendered it despite the five ties in the match. Neither team put together a string of serves longer than three but, led by the play of Caitlin Paschall and Tadam Mergener, the Lady Panthers took the set.
There were eight ties and five lead changes in the fourth set with the last lead change coming seven points away from the coveted 25-point mark.
Foster stepped to the line with an 18-17 lead for Waxahachie and served two points before a kill by Midlothian’s Lexa Corbin stopped the streak.
Courtney Miller answered with a kill for Waxahachie as the teams traded points before a service error by Midlothian gave Waxahachie a three-point lead, 23-20.
Another kill by Miller put Waxahachie up 24-20 before a Midlothian timeout rallied the team. The Lady Panthers scored three consecutive points to cut Waxahachie’s lead to one, 24-23, before Faussett called a timeout.
Faussett made a substitution, called a quick play and her players responded as junior Carly Hess laid down a kill just inside the line to end the match with Waxahachie on top.
Hess finished the night with three kills while Praslicka led the team with 16. Miller reached double digits in kills (12) and digs (13) while libero Lacie Tucker led the team with 18 digs.
Praslicka added eight digs and 15 assists in a strong performance while Partington led the team with 24 assists.
Waxahachie (1-0) plays at Lake Dallas on Tuesday with the junior varsity starting the action at 5 p.m.
Midlothian’s JV team defeated Waxahachie in three sets, 26-24, 12-25, 25-22. Mary Kate Clark had three aces while Emma Hinds had seven service points in a row during the loss for Waxahachie.
Before the game, both teams wore T-shirts honoring Waxahachie senior Tori Bingham, who was injured 11 days ago in a one-vehicle accident.
Coaches for both teams also wore T-shirts supporting Tori while the Lady Indians had a seat reserved on the bench for their teammate with her jersey and stuffed bear.
Waxahachie’s starting lineup included Praslicka, Foster, Hess, Kelsey Vincent, Partington and Miller. Tucker was the libero while Sophie Stevens also joined the action.