By TONY EIERDAM
In their final tuneup before district volleyball play begins, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams started out on fire but faded in the end as the Wichita Falls Hirschi Lady Huskies came back to win the match three games to one.
The Lady Rams will open District 6-3A play at 5 p.m. Friday at home against defending champion Kennedale.
The Lady Rams were aggressive and communicated well in a 25-21 win to open the match. But in a seesaw game two, Hirschi got hot late to win the game, 25-19, that squared the match.
In consecutive games that could have gone either way, Hirschi needed extra rallies to pull off identical wins of 26-24, 26-24 to seal the match.
The match mirrored last Tuesday’s loss against Brownwood where MWHS won the opening game but dropped the next three contests.
“It is a frustrating situation,” Lady Rams head coach Taylor Eggleston said. “We have to learn how to push through adversity.
“We need to get over the hump and play with fire inside of us. In the last two games we were a point here or a point there (from winning), and we have to be confident that we can take care of it and get it done.
“Even if you give up one point, it doesn’t mean we just lost the game off just one point. It took Hirschi to 26 points twice to get there, which means we gave up 26 points.”
A kill each by Sydney Vasquez and Brittany Guill along with a Hirschi return error gave the Lady Rams a quick 3-1 lead in the opening game.
The Lady Rams extended their lead to 11-7 after bookend kills from Vasquez surrounded by four consecutive Lady Huskie return errors.
Hirschi managed to cut the lead to three points, 23-20, before committing two return errors in the following three rallies to bring the opener to game point.
Vasquez ended the match with a kill from the left side off a feed from Emiley Loya as MWHS took game one.
In game two, four straight aces from Vasquez gave the Lady Rams a 5-2 lead. However, Hirschi began to dominate the net and went on a 15-10 run to
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take a 17-13 lead.
Hirschi’s lead grew to 21-15 before a back-row kill from Bre Hinojos and a kill in the middle by Ashley Valdez cut the visitors’ lead to 21-17.
But Hirschi scored four points in the next six rallies to win game two and square the match.
For the third game in a row, the Lady Rams jumped out to a quick lead. Vasquez stayed hot at the service line and fired a pair of aces for a 2-0 advantage.
The game was tied at 12-12 before Hirschi scored four answered points for a 16-12 lead.
MWHS came back with three points in the following four rallies courtesy of a block by Bailey Simonton, a HHS serving error and an ace from Loya to cut the Lady Huskies’ lead to 17-15.
The game was tied at 21-21 before a kill from Bethany Allen followed by another block in the middle by Simonton put the Lady Rams two points from victory with a 23-21 lead.
Hirschi scored the next point but committed a return error as MWHS led 24-21. Hirschi scored the next two points to tie the game at 24-24 and followed with two more points to win the game and take a 2-1 lead in games in the best-of-five match.
Hirschi led game four 17-11 before MWHS began to mount a comeback. Consecutive kills by Allen, an ace from Kaleigh Aaron and a pair of Hirschi return errors cut the Lady Huskies’ lead to 17-16.
Hirschi stretched its lead to 23-19 before a return error cut the lead to three, and the side out put the ball in the hands of Allen at the service line.
Allen’s ensuing offering put Hirschi back on its heels, and as a result Loya fed Vasquez for a kill that cut the lead to 23-21.
Allen used defense to keep the next rally alive as the senior – who plays all the way around – dove face first to dig out a ball on the back row. The surprised Lady Huskies could not return the ball as MWHS cut the lead to 23-22.
A kill in the middle for Hirschi brought the fourth game to match point, 24-22, but MWHS stayed in the game in part to a match-saving dig by Allen followed by a Lady Huskies’ return error.
The Lady Rams squared the game, 24-24, on the ensuing rally on a kill by Maxi Shultz from the right side.
But Hirschi followed with consecutive kills from the middle to win game four and the match.
Eggleston said communication played a vital role in the outcome of the match.
“I think the big factor in winning game one was we were talking,” Eggleston said. “I do not know if (media and fans in the stands) can tell that our communication was there in game one, but it was.
“But in the rest of the games we absolutely quit talking. Hirschi started utilizing its strong middle hitter after the first game, and she hurt us and was effective in their quick offense.
“Our timing trying to get on her hit was off.”
Eggleston did find positives from the match. New hitter Bethany Allen, the former libero, had nine kills, and Vasquez recorded a team-high 13 kills and served up a season-high seven aces. Outside hitter Brittany Guill finished with six kills.
“I feel our serving was pretty good,” she said. “Bethany and Sydney had great games at the service line and strong games on the outside (hitting).
“I also thought Bailey (three blocks) and Ashley played well in the middle. But the best news is beginning Friday we are 0-0 and it is a new season with district play.”
By TONY EIERDAM
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