The volleyball postseason still may be a couple of weeks away, but Tuloso-Midway already got a taste of the playoff atmoshphere.
And if things continue like they did Tuesday night, that’s just where the Cherokees will be.
T-M used a brilliant performance at the service line to outlast No. 13 Calallen 25-22, 23-25, 25-21, 25-27, 15-13 at a raucous Bobby Craig Gymnasium. It was the Cherokees’ first win over the Lady Cats in program history, which began varsity competition in 2008.
“(I’m) on cloud nine,” T-M coach Jamie Gill said. “I couldn’t be happier for the community, first of all, the district, the program. Calallen is always a powerhouse, and to come out on our court and take them in a huge, five-set match – as young as we are, to not shut down mentally and to push point after point – I have never had a prouder moment in my years of being a head coach.
“And it’s not even a playoff game.”
It sure felt like it, however.
The two rival schools separated by mere miles each had their backers, and the crowd certainly was treated to a heart-pounding match. Each set ended within four points, including the decisive fifth.
After opening the fourth game down 6-0, the Lady Cats rallied to nab the fourth game 27-25. Calallen faced a similar hole to begin the fifth set. This time, it couldn’t fully recover.
The Cherokees scored the first four points before Hannah Flores had one of her match-high 20 kills. The Lady Cats fought back to knot the game at 12-all. A serving error, however, gave the ball and a 13-12 advantage back to T-M.
Following a T-M block, Calallen regained possession trailing 14-13. The ensuing serve flew into the net, clinching the historic win for the Cherokees. It was the fourth serving error of the final game for the Lady Cats.
T-M, on the other hand, was lethal on the service line. The Cherokees – led by Kelsi Luckenbach’s six and Analysa Gonzales’ four – racked up 17 aces on the night.
“Our serving is huge,” Gill said. “And our ace servers are freshmen…Those girls know how capable their serves are. They do a great job of keeping the ball in play at the right time.”
T-M set that theme in motion early with three consecutive aces by Shelby Stipp to break a 22-22 stalemate in the first game. The win completed a seven-point comeback for the Cherokees, who took a timeout trailing 11-4 in the opening set.
“They know what we’re capable of doing,” Gill said of her team. “They came out not relaxed and in the zone. They just needed to relax and get in the zone and do what we do best. They settled in and started gaining momentum.”
From there it was as even as it comes. Gill now hopes the dramatic win pushes T-M (23-12, 8-5 District 30-5A) into the right direction as the postseason nears.
Kills: Calallen, Hannah Flores 20, Alexis Sacky 13; T-M, Shelby Stipp 9, Emma Gray 7
Assists: Calallen, Jordan Roberts 42; T-M, Jamie Horman 18, Lauren Turner 15
Digs: Calallen, Rachel Beach 10, Camille Moller 7; T-M, Analysa Gonzales 25, Victoria Barton 8
Blocks: Calallen, Sacky 6, Roberts 5; T-M, Gray 3; Kelsi Luckenbach 1