By TONY EIERDAM
It was a tale of two matches Tuesday night at the Mineral Wells High School gym in a non-district volleyball clash between the host Lady Rams and the Brownwood Lady Lions.
“Match One” saw a Lady Rams team dominate at the net and the service line in a 25-19 win where MWHS led for all but one rally.
However, “Match Two” saw Brownwood come back from trailing early in each of the next three games to take wins of 25-18, 25-13 and 25-20 to win the match as the Lady Rams fall to 9-19.
Lady Rams head coach Taylor Eggleston said communication – or lack there of – was the key in the final three games.
“In the first game we talked and worked together as a team,” Eggleston said. “The girls were moving their feet well and played smart. We minimized our mistakes and communicated.
“(Communication) is something we have had a difficult time with this year, and I have spoken to them about being and staying consistent in every aspect of the game.
“We did not carry that over from game one. If we communicate, then it is not a guessing game (as to where everyone is supposed to be on the court).
“If we don’t communicate, then it is a guessing game as to where everyone is supposed to be, and consequently we are not making smart decisions.
“Communication for us is an issue of just being consistent.”
Eggleston also made a major position change before the match. All-district libero Bethany Allen was moved to outside hitter, and the aggressive, athletic senior displayed an attacking swing and recorded five kills. Defensive specialist Mason Malone was switched to libero, and she played a solid match at her new position.
“I think BB (Allen) did great,” Eggleston said. “She likes that position, and we will keep BB playing all the way around. She is willing to swing hard, and she doesn’t make many mistakes.
“Endurance is not an issue for her, so playing all the way around and never leaving the court is normal for her. In my mind, this is a permanent change.
“I need someone (on the outside) who will get after it, and she is willing to do so.”
Outside hitter Brittany Guill got the Lady Rams started with a kill and a block in the opening game, and Emiley Loya followed with a pair of aces as MWHS raced out to a 6-4 lead.
A block and a kill by Ashley Valdez and a kill from Sydney Vasquez extended the Lady Rams’ lead to 10-6.
After another kill by Guill, defensive specialist Kaleigh Aaron frustrated the Lady Lions’ defense by firing three consecutive aces to give the Lady Rams a 17-11 cushion.
Brownwood cut the lead to 19-14 before a kill each from Valdez and Allen and another ace by Loya increased the lead to 22-16.
A kill three rallies later by Aaron followed by a Brownwood return error brought the opener to game point.
The Lady Lions were called for a lift infraction as MWHS took the opener.
The Lady Rams led 3-2 in game two after a kill from Allen on the left side after a cross-court set by Erin Burgeson.
However, it would be the first and only lead in the game for the hosts. Brownwood went on an 8-1 run and never looked back.
The Lady Lions squared the match after ending game two on a 9-6 run to win by seven points.
The Lady Rams started game three in aggressive fashion. MWHS led 4-2 after a kill from Bailey Simonton, a pair of aces by Aaron and a stopper from Guill.
But at this point, the match changed and momentum carried over to the visitors.
Brownwood followed with a 14-2 run to take a 16-6 lead.
Although the Lady Rams would tally six more points in the game, five were the result of Brownwood return errors and another came on a missed Lady Lions’ serve.
Brownwood took a 2-1 lead in games after closing out game three on a 6-1 run.
The Lady Rams led for most of the first half of the fourth game.
The game took on the life early on of a Lady Rams’ blowout as a kill by Allen from the left side off a Burgeson feed gave MWHS a 10-4 lead.
But Brownwood slowly crept back into the contest and followed with an 11-5 run to knot the game at 15-15.
It was all Lady Lions after that. After MWHS took a 16-15 lead, Brownwood followed with nine consecutive points to take for a 23-16 advantage.
The Lady Rams fought back with two of the next three points and added two more points after a kill each from Emily Rogers and Allen to cut the lead to 24-20.
But Brownwood sealed game four and the match after a Lady Rams’ return error.
Despite the loss, Eggleston saw progress in the final game.
“I fell we minimized our mistakes in game four,” Eggleston said. “We did have a handful of missed servers, but we also had some very aggressive serves.
“It’s kind of a give and take. I would like to have few missed serves, but at the same time I want us aggressive at the line.
“But to have four or five missed serves in a game we lost by five points, well, that is the difference in that game. That is something we can control.
(In game four) we were aggressive and talked a little bit more, and I thought we moved better on defense.”
The Lady Rams will continue non-district play at 5 p.m. Friday at Breckenridge.