By Moses Leos III
A concerted team effort Friday allowed the Hays Rebels to notch a key district win despite the absence of a primary offensive weapon.
Even without the abilities of junior Hailee Morton, Hays earned a pivotal straight set win (25-13, 25-22, 25-18) over the Anderson Trojans at Bales Gym.
“We came in with a lot of our energy. We were focused on this game,” Hays junior Kaitlyn Krafka said. “We knew how big this game was for us. So we came in wanting to win and we did our jobs.”
Krafka scored a team high nine kills while Callie Britton had 14 assists. Junior Ashley Slovak had 11 digs, while Krafka racked up nine aces.
The support of a deep bench, along with a key play from several underclassmen, allowed Hays’ offense to thrive. The Rebels were able to do this without the play of Morton, who was out due to injury.
According to Krafka, the loss didn’t have any effect on the court.
Hays’ offense showed its prowess in the first set. After taking a 10-9 lead, the Lady Rebels then stepped on the gas and closed on a 15-4 run. Providing support was Krafka, along with junior Mackenzie Coates and freshman Catherine Croft.
Hays head coach Stephanie Coates said the Rebels’ depth on the bench “stepped up” with Morton’s absence.
“We’re deep offensively. We have a lot of weapons,” Coates said. “Some of them are young. Some of them don’t have a lot of varsity experience. But when they’re on, they are very capable.”
Anderson fought right back in the second set. Both teams traded points in the early going before Hays emerged with a 13-11 lead. The Rebels’ lead grew to 21-16 when Anderson mustered a late rally.
Aided by a stout defense and a timely offensive front, Anderson went on a 3-0 run to cut the gap. Hays was forced to stave off the late rally to earn the set victory.
Krafka said the team prepared for Anderson’s block in practice by using dots on the court to correspond with opposing players, and hitting around them. She added communication with hitters, primarily with attack placement, was a critical component.
That prowess showed in the third set as the Rebels held off a determined Anderson rally. Hays worked to halt Anderson’s Kristina Fischer, who finished with a game high 11 kills. Coates lauded Fischer’s hitting by saying she saw over the Hays block well.
“A few times we were late on the block and gave her a window of opportunity,” Coates said. “But we knew she wasn’t going to beat us by herself … if we could serve tough and keep the ball out of her hands, it would be good for us.”
But it was the Rebels’ play that lifted them in the final moments. Coates said Hays “showed up as a team” and that strong defense and ball control played a role.
“We actually ran some things, which is what we’ve been waiting to do all season long,” Coates said. “I’m happy that starting early in the second round that we’re executing.”