Melissa outlasts Van Alstyne
VAN ALSTYNE — The margin of error in 9-4A has proven to be razor thin through the first half of the district schedule.
The four teams clustered neared the top — Van Alstyne, Melissa, Celina and Aubrey — have all suffered losses within the group and all of them have been in five games.
So when the Lady Panthers and Lady Cardinals squared off for the first time and tied in first place, it was no surprise that in order to remain there, the winner would come from a match going the distance.
The Lady Panthers were close to ending it before it got that far but Melissa outlasted Van Alstyne, 25-19, 19-25, 24-26, 25-23, 15-10, in 9-4A action.
"We knew going into this it was going to be a battle," Van Alstyne head coach Veronica Mendez said. "A 2-1 lead in this district is no lead. A lead is when you win the match. It's a great challenge."
Alexis McCombs, Abbey Maldonado and Brooklee Waltrip helped spur the comeback for Melissa (14-7, 5-1), which remained a half-game ahead of second-place Celina.
Valerie Young, Samantha Moore and Jadyn Cranford led the way for Van Alstyne (12-5, 4-2), which starts the second half against Aubrey, the team tied for third with the Lady Panthers and beat VA in five in the first meeting.
"It's a good place to be. Moving forward, we have to make sure we take care of business," Mendez said.
The only lead Van Alstyne had in the deciding game was on the opening point when Moore and Ashlyn Quillan combined on a block.
Melissa scored the next four points, although VA was able to tie the score at five.
A 5-1 run by the Lady Cardinals followed, forced a timeout from the home team and the Lady Panthers started to chip away. Quillan's kill made it just a one-point deficit at 11-10 but it was as close as Van Alstyne could get. Melissa picked up the final four points, three of them on VA errors.
The Lady Cardinals stayed alive with a late push in Game 4. Melissa jumped to a 4-0 lead but then Van Alstyne found itself up 8-5. The Lady Cardinals went back in front and then the Lady Panthers held a 16-15 advantage. From that moment neither side was up by more than two points.
Abby Lange's kill gave VA a 22-20 lead but Malori Pletcher had a block, Saniah Anthony put down a kill and Melissa was in front.
The Lady Panthers tied it at 23 but kills from Anthony and Waltrip extended the match.
Melissa spent almost of a Game 3 playing from behind. The Lady Cards led 2-1 but then fell back. The lead never got very big and as the frame hit the latter stages, it really tightened.
Janessa Crawford, Quillan and Young helped keep the Lady Panthers in front and after a Melissa error VA was up 23-20. Just as quickly, however, was a push by the Lady Cards on back-to-back kills from Chelsea George and Maldonado that gave the visitor's a 24-23 lead.
Young put down a kill to tie the game and another Melissa hitting error gave the Lady Panthers a chance to finish it off and Moore's block gave Van Alstyne a 2-1 lead.
The Lady Panthers controlled most of the second game after Melissa held the early advantage. Van Alstyne took the lead for good at 9-4 on the strength of a 6-0 burst keyed by a Moore block and Young ace. VA then earned four of the next five points to widen the gap and the Lady Cardinals never put together a huge push.
Cranford overpowered a block for a seven-point lead — 20-13 — and the closest Melissa got the rest of the stanza was at 21-17 before consecutive kills from Moore helped the Lady Panthers tie the match.
Van Alstyne did not have a lead in Game 1 after a couple of early ties.
The Lady Cardinals used a 5-1 run to gain control for a 10-4 advantage before the Lady Panthers trimmed the deficit behind Quillan. Another 5-1 spurt then pushed Melissa back up by eight, 20-13, but again Van Alstyne had a response.
Young led a 6-0 run that got it down to a one-point game at 20-19 but a service error stymied the momentum and the Lady Cards notched the final five points to take the frame.