FRISCO — Things can change for a team in as little as a week or as long as a month. Seasons can be smooth sailing or roller-coaster rides or combine the two during the same year. The Melissa Lady Cardinals got off to a bumpy start in district play, including getting swept by Celina.
By the time the teams met in the second half of the 11-4A schedule, Melissa earned the four-set victory. The Lady Cards showed how much better they have gotten since then, earning their 10th straight victory as Melissa defeated the Lady Bobcats, 25-16, 25-18, 25-16, in a Class 4A Region II quarterfinal match at Frisco Independence on Monday night.
“We were in a little but of a down spot in the first round. Since then it’s been do or die,” Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo said. “We wanted to win district; we wanted the number one seed because of the path in the bracket we wanted to take.”
Caroline Kasson had 16 kills and 10 digs, Susan Blake added 11 kills and five digs, Charley Lane totaled four kills, 13 assists and seven digs, KG Matthews put down four kills, Chelsea George collected 16 digs and Sophia Bush totaled 20 assists, six digs and three aces for Melissa (36-11), which will face either Community or Wills Point in the region semifinals at 6 p.m. on Friday at Mesquite Poteet.
It is the third trip to the region tournament for the Lady Cardinals and first since 2014.
“We’ve got five seniors and a senior manager on this team and they are driven,” DePaolo said. “Those seniors kept the team focused.”
Celina (24-23), which was in the third round for the first time in three years, was trying to make the region tournament for the first time since 2013.
To finish off the sweep, Melissa used a similar script. Celina scored three of the first four points before the Lady Cardinals settled in and then got kills from Kasson, Lane and Blake to take the lead. The teams traded a couple of points before Melissa reeled off six straight, including an ace by Anna Fortenberry and a block from Abbey Maldonado, for an 11-5 advantage.
The Lady Bobcats did not go quietly, however, putting together a 5-0 run to get within 14-13. Alyssa Radtke put down an ace in the middle of the burst but Celina couldn’t carry that momentum to a lead.
Melissa responded with a 7-1 run with Matthews sandwiching a kill and a block around a kill by Celina’s Casey Thomas, as the lead ballooned to 21-14. Celina called a timeout but Melissa sensed its opportunity to finish off the match and had four kills out of the last five points to end it with Lane’s block capping the night.
For the second straight game, Celina jumped to the lead with an ace by Thomas and then a kill from Kylee Meares for a 5-3 margin.
Melissa took control a little sooner in Game 2 than in Game 1, netting the next two points and then last being tied with the Lady Bobcats at eight. Celina did hang around thanks to offense from Thomas and Meares but the Lady Cardinals pulled off another mid-game spurt — this one five straight points — for an 18-11 advantage.
Blake had back-to-back kills to start the run, Fortenberry chipped in a pair of points, the last with an ace, and Lane and Maldonado combined on a block in the middle of it.
Melissa pushed its lead to seven a couple of more times before Celina trimmed it back to five once, at 20-15, before the Lady Cardinals were on the verge of a sweep.
In the opening game, Melissa didn’t have the lead until the Lady Cardinals went up 10-9 on a kill by Blake.
The early going had Celina taking control and Meares put down an ace to give the Lady Bobcats a 7-4 advantage. Melissa started chipping away at the deficit and Celina did its best to hold the Lady Cardinals off as Hannah Hodges overpowered a block for a 9-8 margin.
But it was the last time the Lady Bobcats went in front during the stanza.
A service error followed by a Blake kill gave Melissa the lead for good and Davis stepped to the service line at the start of a 9-0 run that opened a double-digit margin at 20-10. Davis had three aces, Blake had a pair of kills and Lane chipped in at the next as well during the run.
“This is kinda what these girls do. They work until they feel comfortable,” DePaolo said. “When they find some vulnerabilities, they take off.”
Celina was able to fend off four game points, the latter two from Meares, to get within single digits but Blake ended the frame with a kill to send the Lady Cardinals on their way to the victory.