By TONY EIERDAM
For the Mineral Wells Lady Rams, a volleyball team still trying to mix and match the right combinations, the pre-district matches mean more about continuity and finding the players who play best together rather than the won-loss record.
Although the Lady Rams dropped a pair of matches in a home dual to Glen Rose and Joshua, respectively, MWHS head coach Taylor Eggleston saw a lot in the two matches that will help her sort out the individuals who play best together.
The Lady Rams fell 25-17, 25-11, 25-20 to a solid Glen Rose team, and fought tooth and nail with Class 4A Joshua in a 25- 20, 25-18, 25-15 loss.
“This is still a process,” Eggleston said. “I think (Tuesday) was actually a step forward for us. I saw a lot of good things.
“BB (senior libero Bethany Allen) did well on the back row, especially in the Joshua match, and I was extremely pleased to see (varsity newcomer, sophomore hitter) Caroline Clarke make some in-match changes (to her technique) and send some balls down.
“Caroline had some problems early, but she fixed it, and that is a big deal considering she is a sophomore.”
Eggleston also pointed to her setters, senior three-year varsity letterman Erin Burgeson and sophomore varsity newcomer Riley Bullock, as having outstanding matches.
“Riley and Erin set the ball well but each also had good defensive games,” she said. “They have both improved defensively, and they have been working hard on that. Riley also had some great serves.”
After dropping the first two games against Glen Rose, the Lady Rams jumped out to a 4-2 lead in game three. Although the Lady Tigers took the lead for good on the 13th rally, MWHS had some bright moments.
Glen Rose extended its lead to 19-11 but the Lady Rams buckled down and refused to give in.
After cutting the lead to five points courtesy of Lady Tigers’ errors as a result of strong Lady Rams’ serving, Bullock got hot at the service line and fired three consecutive aces to cut the lead to 20-18.
But Glen Rose answered with five of the next seven points to clinch the match.
In the second match of the day, Glen Rose defeated Joshua three games to one.
In the nightcap, the Lady Rams and Joshua slugged it out in the opening game.
A kill by Clarke opened the match, and Scarlett Eaton followed with a kill off a feed from Burgeson for a quick 2-0 lead.
The opening game was tied three times before settling at 11-11. Joshua took its largest lead of the game, 20-16, before MWHS mounted a rally.
A back-row kill from Allen and a Lady Owls’ return error cut the lead to 20-18. Joshua tallied twice before another kill from the back row by Allen cut the lead to 22-19. The teams split the next two points – the MWHS point finished by a kill from Emiley Loya – before Joshua scored the next two points to win the opener.
In game two, the Lady Owls never trailed, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and extending their advantage to 20-13.
What followed was pleasing to Eggleston’s surveying eyes.
Sydney Vasquez fired consecutive aces to cut the lead to 20-15.
However, the Lady Owls scored five points in the next eight rallies to take a 2-0 lead in games.
Paced by strong serving that forced four Joshua returns errors, and aided by an ace from Mason Malone, the Lady Rams led 5-2 after the first seven rallies of the third game.
Malone added a kill two rallies later, but Joshua managed to come back and take an 8-7 lead.
A kill by Emily Rogers followed by a stopper from Bailey Simonton gave MWHS a brief lead, but Joshua went on a 17-6 run to clinch game three and the match.
Despite dropping a pair of matches, Eggleston was pleased with the overall effort of the team, which fell to 3-8.
“Overall, I feel we hung tough against two good volleyball teams,” she said. “We just can’t make a lot of mistakes in a row.
“If we make a mistake, we need to come back with a side out to offset the mistake. That has to be a goal of ours.
“(Tuesday), we would make a mistake and compound that with three more mistakes in the next three rallies. But that is a growing process, and this is a totally new team so we are working together.
“I am still looking for the right combinations, but I saw some things (Tuesday) from some players who stepped up their play. At the end of our next tournament (Thursdsy and Saturday at Glen Rose) I want to know who the people are that I am going to play.
“The tournament will be very important. I need to see who is meshing together and which player are willing to make necessary changes to their games. We saw that (Tuesday) with Caroline.”