By TONY EIERDAM
Although the third-place tiebreaker match between the Mineral Wells Lady Rams and the Lake Worth Lady Frogs is not an elimination match, it actually does hold almost as much weight as if it were a “play in” match rather than a seeding match.
The top four teams in Class 3A in each district qualify for the state playoffs, meaning the third-place finisher in 6-3A will play the second-place finisher from District 5-3A, Burkburnett. The fourth-place team from 6-3A will have a first-round playoff match with the District 5-3A champion, state-ranked No. 11 Iowa Park.
To put Iowa Park’s ranking in perspective consider Springtown, the District 6-3A champion that ran the table in league play, is ranked No. 14. This alone makes this third-place tiebreaker game important for a team seeking more than just playing in the first round.
Lake Worth shocked the Lady Rams in a 3-1 win a couple of weeks ago which essentially forced this tiebreaker contest.
In the Lady Frogs’ win over MWHS, Lady Rams head coach Taylor Eggleston said she felt the match got away from the Lady Rams early (Lake Worth took the first two games) and the team never could quite get back into the match. She said the MWHS ladies will have to force Lake Worth to play catch-up today.
“We will have to play through every point,” Eggleston said. “We can’t let a lot of balls hit the ground.
“I feel like the last time we played them (Oct. 18) we were really flat and non-assertive. We let them take control of the match.
“I thought when we played them last we lost focus and the control of what needed to be done. We also were not moving. I like it when I see – when an opponent sends over a free ball – the front row pull back off the net and the back row moving forward as they all go for the ball.
“It just flows and looks pretty when everyone is moving in concert with one another in an attempt to get those free balls.
“I felt like it wasn’t flowing – it was very disconnected – the last time we played them. (Today) we need to connect as a team, which I felt like we did in game four at Castleberry on Tuesday.”
Eggleston will also need all players playing at their best. She is pleased to see her defensive blocking step up of late.
“It was great to see (middle hitter) Emily Rogers end the Castleberry match with a block,” Eggleston said. “She has been stepping up lately. But that’s the kind of play we will need (today).
“Blocking was a weakness for us early in the year, but Emily and (middle hitter) Bailey Simonton have been consistent each match in district in getting those blocks.
“(Hitter) Brittany (Guill) has also got some touches, and BB (hitter Bethany Allen) and (hitter) Sydney (Vasquez) have also been getting blocks or at least touches.
“The front-row blocking is far better now than it was at the beginning of the year.”
Although the best-case scenario for the Lady Rams would have been outright third place, at least with a tiebreaker game the team stays on routine and it plays a meaningful “warm up” match right before the playoffs begin.
“I like that we keep our routine,” Eggleston said. “We have had this routine for three months and I can find a positive in not breaking that apart.
“We had a warm up game last year, but this is better because it resembles a playoff match in a playoff atmosphere. This will help us.”