Wildcats sweep Horn to close out non-district play

Sept 23, 2009
BY Matt Welch Staff Writer

PLANO -- Powered by an offensive onslaught that dealt double-digit kills in all three sets of play, the Plano Senior volleyball bested a game Mesquite Horn squad 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-25-22) Tuesday evening.

The match was the final hurdle for both schools in non-district play.

“We have played lots of matches,” said Jennifer Cron, Plano head coach. “It’s been a long preseason, especially for us six-team districts.

“It becomes a long, drawn-out process, but we’re excited about starting district.” With both squads entering Tuesday’s matchup with similar records, all three sets saw their fair share of ties and lead changes. Yet, the Lady Wildcats managed just a few less mistakes, which told the tale of the final count.

In the evening’s first set, both teams traded leads through the first 10 points of play. Plano and Horn each stormed the gates in the opening moments of the match, tallying double-digit kills for both sides.

The Lady Jaguars managed 12 first-set kills, highlighted by six from junior outside hitter Tabitha Hutson.

While Hutson had her way with the Lady Wildcat defense in the early going, Plano dealt equally damaging ace up it’s sleeve in the form of junior middle blocker Maddy Haas, who tallied six kills of her own to open the match.

After frequent instances of back-and-forth action, Horn found itself trailing 11-7 due to a pair of net violations and a rotation error.

The Lady Wildcats’ attack was not without flaw though, as the four-point lead just built up withered down to one-point deficit thanks to a string of Plano attack errors.

A timely kill by Hutson managed to knot the action up at 18 points each, but continuous attack errors eventually drove the momentum back in the Lady Wildcats favor.

A thunderous strike by Plano junior outside hitter Kelsey Hickle closed out the first set of play by a count of 25-21.

The second set of action undertook very much the same stage of events, only in this instance, Horn jumped out to a promising lead.

Despite tallying only seven kills for the set, Horn maintained an early advantage all the way up the team’s 15th point.

Led by a balanced offensive attack between Hutson and Lady Jaguar senior middle blocker Bria Bell, who combined for five of the seven kills, and a well-rounded defensive attack, the Lady Wildcats found themselves down 11-7.

A pair of service aces factored into the early Jaguar advantage, as junior outside hitter Melanie Jaegers accounted for both, with the second ace clipping the head of Plano senior defensive specialist Kristen Niethamer.

Tallying four service errors amongst a slew of attack errors didn’t do Plano any favors, but it was a surge up front by the Wildcat blocking front and some timely serving that once again turned the tide.

While Hutson was able to punctuate the middle of Plano’s defense seemingly at will in the first set, the hard-hitting junior was forced to alter her kill attempts drastically in the second frame.

With Cron rotating both Haas or senior middle blocker Caiti Wenger to man the net, the pair of 6-foot-2 ball hawks gave Hutson and the entire Jaguar offense an increasing number of fits. The poignant darts that pierced the Plano defense early on were reduced to deflections or lob shots that fell into the waiting arms of the Wildcats for a dig.

While Hutson finished Tuesday’s contest with a team-high 14 kills, she mustered only two in the second set.

Offensively, the Wildcats eclipsed their first-set output and tallied 15 kills in the second set. Keeping the mistakes to a minimum late, the scoring output came largely thanks to seven combined kills from senior outside hitter Kenzie Thompson and junior outside hitter Kristen Robbins.

Cutting the Jaguar lead in half with each growing minute, Plano got a much-needed boost from the serving efforts of junior defensive specialist Kendall Eckerd.

Finishing with five service aces on the night, Eckerd accounted for four of them, with three coming in the comeback stages of the second set.

Together, it was the perfect storm for the Wildcats, who seized a late 7-2 run to silence the Jaguars for the second consecutive set, 25-19.

The evening’s third set of play had a similar beginning to the second, with the Jaguars cashing in on an early run of Plano errors to seize a 3-0 lead.

But as had been the story of the match so far, the Plano air assault willed the squad back into things, as the team tallied 12 kills during what would prove to be the match’s final set.

Plano was anything but subtle in it’s approach, as the majority of it’s third-round kills were honed in on the far-right end of the court.

Exchanging the lead three times in the final frame, the Lady Wildcats took a narrow 13-12 margin and expanded it into a 17-13 climb for the Lady Jaguars.

Despite being on the lower end of the scoreboard, Horn refused to wilt and battled back at every turn until the match’s final points.

In gaining it’s 16th point of the match, the Lady Jaguars found themselves going blow for blow with the Wildcats in a pivotal blocking exchange up front.

Separated by mere inches from one another, Horn sophomore middle blocker Haley Hampton traded block attempts with bothNiethamer and Wenger.

Despite being less experienced than her opponents, it didn’t matter for the younger Hampton, who won the pivotal exchange and pulled the Lady Jaguars within one point, 17-16.

In the set’s final stages though, attack errors took their untimely toll and the Lady Wildcats managed to widen their lead to 24-19.

Horn battled back for three more points, but it was all for naught as Haas powered home a downward dart through the middle of the Lady Jaguars’ defensive front to seal the match for Plano, 25-22.

“It was good to see us fighting in there for every point and coming out on top of each game,” Cron said. “They were very close and just there at the end, we surged ahead and were able to finish it.”

With the marathon of 30-plus non-district games in the books, the Lady Wildcats and the Lady Jaguars begin district play Friday evening. Plano travels to McKinney Boyd and Horn hosts DeSoto.

“[District] will be a fun challenge,” Cron said. “It’ll be getting pumped up for everybody and that will be a welcome challenge.

“We’re excited about it. We’ve seen everybody play in our district and go after it. Our goal is always to make the playoffs, so that’s what we’re going for.”




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