Plano uses tip to come out on top

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By Kevin Hageland, Staff Writer

PLANO - Imagining a three-gamer winner in Tuesday night’s match between Plano West (9-3 in District 9-5A) and Plano Senior (8-4) wasn’t that difficult.

But imagining the Lady Wildcats as the victor in such a scenario is a bit more of a stretch.

However that’s exactly what happened as Plano got off to a hot start and kept the momentum going all night in the three-game victory.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed that scenario before this match started either, because West is so good,” said Jennifer Cron, Plano head coach. “But we were focused in this match and played good volleyball all night.”

The two teams were tight early on before a pair of West mishits put Plano ahead, 7-6. The Lady Wildcats wouldn’t relinquish the lead for the remainder of the opener as senior Christina Krone had a kill followed by back-to-back service winners to give Plano a 13-9 lead and force a West timeout.

A diving save by West senior Kayla Johnson, who had 19 digs on the night, gave the Lady Wolves the next point to pull within three. That deficit increased to seven points, 22-15, before West rattled off three straight points.

Just as it looked as though the Lady Wolves were on the trail to a comeback, Plano quickly reclaimed the momentum by winning the next three points; and the opening game, 25-18.

West got out to the hot start in game two as the Lady Wolves stepped up their block. Junior Megan Murphy, who also had 22 assists, and senior Shannon Hawari teamed up for a stuff early on to put West ahead, 5-2.

The Lady Wolves remained in the lead, 14-12, before four straight hitting errors once more put the Lady Wildcats in front for good. Plano senior Mary Elizabeth Hooper, who Cron said was, “outstanding,” notched a tip on the next play as four West players surrounded the ball and watched it hit the floor. Trailing, 17-14, the Lady Wolves called another timeout.

“Hooper was making plays for them all night; she played great,” said Brittany Bridge, West head coach. “Halfway through the match it didn’t even look like we wanted to win.”

The timeout wouldn’t have much of an impact though as Plano won 5 of the next 6 points to increase its cushion to, 22-15. That spurt forced another West timeout.

That strategy worked better the second time around as the Lady Wolves, paced by 7 kills from senior Jordan Kirk, won 4 of the next 6 points to move within, 24-19. Seniors Quinn McKee and Brittany Fossier teamed up for a block on the next point to give the Lady Wildcats a 25-19 victory and a commanding two-game lead in the match.

Plano started the final game by continuing a strategy employed mid-way through game two: deep tips towards the backline.

“We learned a lot from our first match against West, and that strategy was pre-planned,” Cron said referring to the tips. “We had a good game plan coming into this match and executed well.”

But even with the continual points off tips, Plano and West remained within 1-point of one another, tying at 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9, before the Lady Wildcats finally pulled ahead.

A huge kill by senior Leslie Mirarchi put Plano ahead, 10-9, and started a five-point run that was highlighted by a scintillating dig from senior Danielle Manack.

“Danielle gave me chills on that one dig,” Cron said. “She was really outstanding tonight.”

West crept back to within two points, at 15-13, but would get no closer as a pair of errors from the Lady Wolves led to a 6-2 Plano run. The Lady Wildcats continued to hit all the right spots on the court as the team won the final 4 points to end the match. The finish came on a kill by Fossier; to make the score, 25-15.

“This was definitely a playoff-type match,” Cron said. “We wanted to show that we belong among those upper-tier teams.”

Plano will look to continue its momentum, before heading into the playoffs, when the Lady Wildcats hit the road to face Plano East (4-8) on Friday.

West is assured of a playoff spot, but after losing two straight matches, the Lady Wolves will need to get back on track Friday at Wylie.

“Tonight is exactly how we looked against Allen,” Bridge said. “Plano outhustled us; we had no emotion, we didn’t play hard and we just let balls hit the ground.”

As for how West can fix those problems, even Bridge is at a loss.

“That’s a good question,” she said.

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