By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
MANSFIELD — A tight first set and dropped second served as the needed motivation for the Waxahachie Lady Indians on the volleyball court Tuesday at Mansfield Lake Ridge.
The Lady Indians ultimately took care of business to solidify their District 11-6A playoff seeding with the four-set road win against the Lady Eagles, 25-23, 22-25, 25-14, 25-16.
Waxahachie (30-14, 10-2 in 11-6A) had already mathematically clinched a 20th consecutive postseason berth with a four-set win against (23-17-1, 4-7) Duncanville this past Friday.
Waxahachie head volleyball coach Sandy Faussett-Stoops, who is in her 21st season leading the Lady Indians, laughed a bit when it was pointed out that not a single member of this year’s team (or any of the past two) were born when the consecutive streak began.
“It is something that I didn’t ever think about,” Faussett-Stoops said. “This program is something that I am definitely proud of and proud of the kids because they’ve been able to maintain that level of consistency. Because it’s not easy.
“There are no assumptions made, and everyone has to play hard every single match. I feel fortunate that we have the type of kids that fight hard and make it a priority to get the job done.”
The Tuesday victory against Lake Ridge — the sixth consecutive for the side — also locked the Lady Indians into the second seed of the District 11-6A standings.
The Lady Indians were led on the frontline Tuesday by senior Jh’Kyah Head and junior Amber Morgan. Both recorded 13 kills and entered the match with a team-best 350 and 217 kills, respectively.
Head also boasts a team-high 0.237-hitting percentage. Her 45 total blocks only trail the 62 recorded by sophomore Tionna Owens.
Mia Sanchez (10 kills, .176-hitting percentage) and Georgi Horn (8K, .312) also helped pace the Waxahachie hitters.
But it was also the continued upswing and stellar play of Savannah Johnson that fueled the Lady Indians’ consistent attack over the final two sets.
Johnson tallied nine kills on a jaw-dropping 0.421-hitting percentage during the win. The junior entered the match having recorded just 89 kills on 292 swings over 61 sets played (0.120-hitting percentage).
“Savannah had a great game,” said Faussett-Stoops of Johnson, who posted a hitting percentage north of .400 on the night. “She’s been in the starting lineup the last few games, but we’ve used her in different roles.”
Faussett-Stoops noted the coaching staff likes Johnson’s energy, swing on the outside, vocal leadership and effort. She also admitted the junior isn’t “the biggest block but, even though she’s a little bit smaller, she still does a good job getting those touches.”
Junior setter Maddie Fuller turned in another impressive match with 44 assists and 22 digs — both team-highs.
Fuller now leads the Lady Indians with 636 assists. She is second to Rylee Robinson’s 494 digs with 279.
ON THE MEND
Taylor Cavazos returned to action for the Lady Indians on Tuesday. The junior setter has missed the past month-plus and 30-plus sets with a torn meniscus.
“She was released today, and it was good to get her back on the court,” Faussett-Stoops said. “Of course, it takes a little while to work through your timing and everything. But, it’s good to have her back as an option.”
Cavazos entered the match having recorded 124 digs, 27 digs (94.3-serving percentage) and 318 assists pre-injury.
She posted nine assists during Tuesday’s win.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Waxahachie took the opening set 25-23 before falling in the second, 22-25 on the Lady Eagles’ home court.
Faussett-Stoops explained that it’s unacceptable for the Lady Indians to continue to open a match flat, which is what happened against Lake Ridge.
“It has definitely gotten our attention,” she added. “We are going to change the way we warm up and be more prepared to step onto the floor from the first point.
“[…] It’s become the repeated message that you don’t get to warm up after the first few points. We have to be ready to step onto the floor the minute the first ball is put into play. We have to be at our best.”
The head coach also has “little doubt” that the Lady Indians will clean that part of their game up before the 6A playoffs begin.
As for Tuesday, the Lady Indians regained their focus in the third set.
Following several short runs, Johnson recorded a kill on a quick from the middle to put the Lady Indians on top, 21-13. Horn mirrored by firing home the 22nd Waxahachie point of the set.
Johnson later tipped over a double block in the middle for the setpoint, 25-14, sending the Lady Indians into the fourth set leading two sets to one.
Head began the fourth set by firing home a kill from the middle. Abby Fuller (3 aces) then snuck an ace just over the top of the net to set a nice early tone for the Lady Indians.
Following a couple of self-inflicted errors, Head answered with a kill from the right side on an excellent Fuller back set to put Waxahachie up, 4-3.
The Lady Indians were then able to run off a 7-2 run thanks to stellar play in the passing game and along the back row. The run forced a Lake Ridge timeout with Waxahachie leading, 11-5, and in complete control.
The rally didn’t stop with the timeout, either, as Waxahachie reeled off six of the following nine points to build a 17-8 advantage.
Johnson and Sanchez each recorded a pair of kills during the run.
A few serves later, Head went up strong from the middle for a solid block and Sanchez added another kill for a 20-13 Lady Indian lead.
Brooklyn Baskin then followed with an ace and Lake Ridge recorded a hitting error to move Waxahachie three points from a match win.
Baskin ended the match with two aces, nine digs and 16 serves received.
Another Lake Ridge error, Johnson kill and Morgan kill sealed match point in the fourth set, 25-16.
The Lady Indians will begin their final regular-season homestand Friday against (29-15, 11-0) Mansfield at 5:30 p.m. The side will then face (28-6-3, 8-3) DeSoto inside Michael Key Turner Gymnasium at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26.
“I didn’t feel like we took the court [tonight] as focused as we needed to be,” Faussett-Stoops said. “And when we are focused on what we are doing, then this team can play some good, aggressive volleyball. But, if we let those distractions come into play like Homecoming… we just have to stay focused.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith