The Lady Redskins celebrate after winning the first match of the season on the road at Class 3A No. 4 Southwestern Heights. This was the third year that the Lady Mustangs and Lady Redskins have started the season against each other. L&T photos/Larry Phillips
By LARRY PHILLIPS
• Leader & Times
KISMET — One of the state’s top Class 3A girls volleyball teams had the perfect set-up – Southwestern Heights was hosting the Class 5A Lady Redskins Tuesday evening for the season opener on their own court.
But the Lady Redskins, after a slow start, rallied to a surprising victory over the perennial powehouse Lady Mustangs. In a hard-fought battle, the ’Skins came back from losing the first set 25-11 to take the next three straight 25-23, 25-16 and 25-20 to win the match over an up-and-down Heights team.
In the first set, the Lady Mustangs jumped out to a commanding lead and never let up. They played error-free ball and the score showed it.
“I just think we kind of caught them off guard a little bit,” Lady Mustang head coach Julie Tucker said. “Our hitters got some confidence and they were able to get after it.”
Heights started off the second set much like the first – jumping out to a 10-3 early lead. But when Liberal called time out trailing 16-10, head coach Thais Baziquetto let her players know she was not impressed with their play.
The Redskins clawed back to narrow Heights lead to 23-20 and the Mustangs called a time out. Liberal’s Jai Chapman made a tough serve and Heights was unable to handle it to tie the score at 23 all. Liberal had the momentum on serve and took the next two points to win 25-23.
In the third set, the Lady Mustangs started losing some of their focus and made unforced errors. Liberal took advantage, and with the score 14-13 in Liberal’s favor, they never looked back, easily winning 26-16.
Tucker had a serious talk with her girls prior to the fourth set, and the Lady Mustangs dug in after Liberal took off to a 12-9 lead. Heights tied the game at 13-13. But again, when down only 19-17, Heights put the serve into the net. The Mustangs hung in, down 22-20, but after a time out, Liberal took the next three, bang, bang, bang, to win the game 25-20 and the match 3-1.
Liberal’s Thais Baziquetto expected her team to respond after dropping the first game.
“I think it was just playing that first game (of the season) and we have very young players – and some seniors,” she said. “They got over the first game and started fresh – new, on the second one, and we pushed all the way through.”
She explained her starting team has two sophomores, four juniors and four seniors.
Did she have to get a little tough with her players after that first loss?
“Yes, I did a little, you can tell by my voice,” Baziquetto said. “That’s the way I coach, and the girls know me, so, I get a response.”
Though, obviously, disappointed, Tucker was glad her girls got out of the blocks early.
“We got off to a good start, which was nice to see, because in the past, we’ve been a little slow starting out, so that was good to see,” she said. “That’s about all the positive I saw out of this.”
Class 3A No. 4 Heights will host Ingalls, Satanta and Stanton County Sept. 6 for a quad tourney.
The Lady Redskins travel to play Garden City Thursday.