Lady Tiger volleyball got off to slow starts in two of three games during Tuesday’s bi-district contest in Waco, and the Llano Lady Jackets were able to pounce on their opportunities.
Glen Rose (22-14) played relatively well in game three, but Llano always seemed to have an answer on the way to a sweep: 21-25, 15-25 and 24-26.
“Playoff pressure may have been a factor; we just couldn’t seem to all get going at the same time,” said coach Laura Korenek. “We had some great streaks in there, but weren’t able to keep it all together.”
Although Kelsey Potter started her night off right with a block for 1-1, Llano was immediately sharp to go up 3-8. After calling a timeout, Glen Rose clawed all the way back to 12-13 to force a Llano timeout. During that stretch, Potter (2 kills, tip) was strong and Kayla Goebel had a block.
Unfortunately, the Lady Jackets were able to regain control quickly, as senior Jessica Wunderlich brought a very strong jump serve to the table and the Lady Tigers really began to have issues with serve-receive to fall behind 12-20.
“We struggled with that,” Korenek said. “We have some girls that serve tough (too), but we weren’t moving well enough (defensively). When you’re down that far, you can’t make any mistakes. Every mistake you make is magnified.”
Led by Reilly Junge (2 kills), Glen Rose fought back to 19-22. In those critical final points, however, the Lady Tigers had difficulty passing and Llano capitalized (21-25).
“I think our difficulty passing on back row made the game,” Korenek said. “That’s why they won and we lost. Llano passed the ball well and we didn’t, which made it hard to get a good hit.”
Needing a strong game to even the match up, the Lady Tigers nearly lost it before they ever got started by falling behind 1-9. Unforced errors were a frequent problem.
“It’s really hard to come back from that, but we tried,” Korenek said. “The girls didn’t quit.”
The Lady Tigers made a bit of a run (6-11) with a Caitlin Fellers kill and a trio of Potter service points, but their uncharacteristic errors just wouldn’t go away and Llano surged back out in front at 7-17.
With four tips already to their credit in the game, the Lady Jackets added three more on the way to closing it out (15-25). Baylie Plaster had a trio of late service points, Meredith Odom hit a pair of kills and Potter had a block.
“They tipped a lot and it’s hard to get a good solid pass up, because you’re diving around trying to save the ball,” Korenek said. “They were very good tipping away from us and it was a challenge.”
Plaster seemed to immediately contribute when called upon, and thus she played heavily during the final two games.
“Baylie got in there and played well,” Korenek said. “She was one of the only girls to have a serving streak in game two. She played good defense and I tried to roll with her.”
To the delight of the Lady Tigers and their fans, Glen Rose got off to a good start in game three (10-6). Potter (2 kills, block) continued to play big, Fellers hit two kills, Plaster served up an ace and Kiffany Kelly (ace) had a three-point serving streak.
“We played a lot better in game three,” Korenek said. “We started playing as a team and got more things together. It was hitting balls out and other unforced errors that cost us.”
Hitting too long began to hurt Glen Rose as Korenek mentioned, considering Llano would trail for the last time at 11-10. On the way to 18-20, Llano was really effective hitting off quick sets. As the Lady Tigers tried to hang in there, Odom (block, kill) led the charge.
“We hit a lot of balls out, and we don’t usually do that,” Korenek said. “They had good timing on their quick sets and they hit corners well. We had a hard time adjusting to cover the corners.”
Even as Llano arrived at the brink of victory (20-24), the Lady Tigers didn’t throw in the towel. In fact, they scored four-straight points (24-24) with a Kelly back-row kill and then three-straight service points from Potter (ace).
“Especially because she had struggled with (hitting) earlier, that was a great time for Kiffany to step up and get that kill,” Korenek said. “You need that from a senior and I thought she played really good in game three on back row, especially because she stepped up her serve-receive. Kelsey is strong and she played hard. In game three, she was really important getting (to) tips on defense, which had killed us the first two sets.
“Her and Meredith have both played critical roles this season as sophomores. They play hard and aren’t afraid to speak up; they’ve filled some big shoes.”
Korenek was proud to see her team last so long with Llano one point from victory.
“The girls really wanted it; you can’t doubt their effort,” the coach said. “They fought to get back in it.”
Unfortunately, the final two points of the match went to Llano on Lady Tiger errors (24-26).
Korenek has to part with a lot of quality senior players, but she has seen several juniors and sophomores perform at a high level in 2012.
“It’s a great senior class,” she said. “They’re great kids who work hard; they love volleyball. I couldn’t have asked for a better senior group in my first year as head coach.
“The players coming back have some big shoes to fill, but they have already played important roles this year. Having a number of key players coming back is something to build on.”