Monday night was not an instant classic of yesteryear, or even last year, between the Waxahachie Lady Indians and Red Oak Lady Hawks. That is not a knock against either team, either.
It's early in the season with each team having played fewer than a baker's dozen worth of matches. Over the last few seasons, fans are also more accustomed to the two battling down to the final serve late in the district season with playoff implications on the line.
In reality, the two squads are quite simply in different places right now — (7-5) Red Oak has a young team working to find consistency and chemistry, while (10-1) Waxahachie has varsity experience to boot.
The experience won out during a three-set sweep, 25-21, 25-12, 25-14, on the newly dedicated floor at Mike Turner Gymnasium.
“Everything except for the serving was great for us," Waxahachie head volleyball coach Sandy Faussett said. "I thought our offense ran will, I thought the defense was good and, with the exception of that second set, we were able to control their runs to one or two points, which was a big deal for us."
Junior setter Ragan Ward was stellar night behind the service line with 20 points (4 aces) and added a team-high 30 assists.
Faussett noted that coming into the match, she spoke with the lady Indians about the importance of improving their serve percentage, which she voiced could have been a little to their detriment Monday night.
“We have to serve better. We cannot miss first serves and it is just an area that we need to focus on right now,” Faussett added after the match.
Audrey Nalls led the Lady Indians with 17 kills, while Essence Clerkley (6), Courtney Crownover (5), Lacy Mott (5) and Madison Babers (4) also played well above the net.
Senior and UTA-verbal commit, Alli Wells, recorded 13 digs. Baylee Whitehead and Ward both chipped in seven digs, and Abi Rodgers added four.
Baylee Whitehead converted on 11-of-her-13 chances on serve receive to help get the Lady Indians offense in motion.
The win capped a six-day, 11-match stretch that saw the Lady Indians finish third in the championship bracket of a stacked Mansfield ISD tournament over the weekend, as well as sweep defending 5A state champion Prosper and rival Red Oak.
And, all in all, Faussett has been quite pleased with their play en route to a 10-win start to the season.
“It's weird because we go at it so fast and so hard and play ten opponents, so it gives us a really quick measure of what we need to work on. It has been great, and I couldn't be more pleased with where we are at right now," she said. "Coming back from the spring I knew we had to be ready because we were going to jump right in, and I know I've said that before, but I felt like they attacked that challenge very confidently, especially for only being together for a few days as a new varsity team.”
The Lady Indians returned to action Tuesday night against Hewitt Midway in Waco. They then pick back up with tournament play this weekend in the Northwest ISD Classic, played Thursday— Saturday in Justin.
*Editor's note: The Lady Indians swept Midway, 25-13, 25-23, 25-10, on Tuesday night to improve to 11-1 on the season.
Three Nalls aces helped build an early 5-2 lead for the Lady Indians. After a short Red Oak rally a few serves later, Essence Clerkley recorded back-to-back kills for a 9-5 lead. Two serves later, she then added her third kill for a 10-6 Lady Indians advantage.
Issues with one of boundary sticks attached to the netting caused a short delay in the opening set, and the Lady Hawks found a little momentum after a new one was installed. Red Oak used a pair of Hailey Hunt kills and a Lady Indian error to pull within one, 16-15, and force a Sandy Faussett timeout.
Hunt later tied the match at 17 with an ace to the middle of the Waxahachie serve-receive.
The longest rally of the set eventually resulted in a Red Oak point courtesy of a Kendra Mcruffin kill. The Lady Hawks followed with another point to inch back toward Lady Indians lead, tailing 22-20.
Waxahachie scored three of the next four points — capped by a Madison Babers kill from the center — to take the first set, 25-21.
The second set started with a 10-0 Waxahachie run, with nine of the points served by Ward.
By the time her spot in the rotation came around again, the Lady Indians held an 18-10 advantage.
Waxahachie cruised to the second-set win, 25-12.
Red Oak took its turn at a hot start in the third set, opening with a 5-1 lead before a Faussett timeout.
Following a few back-and-forth volleys, Clerkley terminated a zip assist by Ward from the center and Anna Rodgers record two service points to pull Waxahachie within one, 9-8.
Waxahachie took its first lead of the set three serves later, 10-9, on a Nalls kill assisted by Ward.
A little later in the match, five-consecutive aces off the right hand of Nalls put the Lady Hawks on the ropes, 21-12, before a Waxahachie hitting error.
The Lady Indians held on the for the 25-14 win and sweep.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith