By Moses Leos III
Cohesive play and defensive prowess carried the Dripping Springs Lady Tigers to a key non-district win Monday at Tiger Gym.
A game-high 12 kills tallied by junior middle blocker Graceyn Tippens lifted Dripping Springs past the Hays Rebels 25-22, 25-19, 25-22.
“Beating a team 3-0 is a huge deal for us,” Dripping Springs head coach Michael Kane said. “(Hays) is going to be a 6A playoff team and that’s going to be a big feather in our cap.”
Kane said he was pleased with the cohesive play of the team, along with their ability to make “smart plays” on the court. The Tiger defense, led by libero Karen Crews, limited the play making ability of Hays middle blockers Hailee Morton, Kaitlyn Krafka and Jaime Agnew.
Morton and Agnew both finished the match with six kills, while Krafka had five.
“That’s one of the things we’ve got to know is that we’re not going to out-physical a lot of teams, but we’re going to play good defense, which I thought we did,” Kane said. He added the team was able to serve aggressively, which he said gets teams out of system.
“We got (Hays) on their heels and made them make mistakes,” Kane said.
Dripping Springs opened the match by taking a competitive first set 25-22. The Tigers followed by taking control in the second set, pulling out to a 16-10 lead after a kill by Karen Crews. Dripping Springs maintained momentum and cruised to a 25-19 win.
Hays High head coach Stephanie Coates said the Lady Rebels were able to stay close in the match, but struggled at times to find their “next gear” and speed the game up.
“You can’t beat a great team and play good,” Coates said. “You’ve got to play great. We’re still chasing that now.”
The Lady Rebels also struggled to keep the ball away from Crews, who Coates said is “pretty darn good.” Coates said the team was focused on hitting the ball away from Crews as much as possible.
“At first, we were all working together and being aggressive and not worrying about making mistakes,” Morton said. “And we were playing as a team and for each other.”
Hays was successful in getting “in-system balls from out of system contacts” during the course of the match, but ultimately struggled in giving “way too many points away,” Coates said.
Dripping Springs capitalized on Hays’ struggles in the third set, as they took a 14-10 lead.
The focus on not giving up on balls, playing with intensity and the ability to be “smart with shots” when out of system guided Hays rally, Coates said.
Kane said the Tigers were trying to force “a few things and got us in trouble a bit.”
Hays rallied back to tie the match at 17-17, but Dripping Springs’ composure held through as they closed out the match.
Taking what the team learned during its 2-5 run at the Texas Volleyball Invitiational Touranemnt in Pearland is the focus for Coates and the Lady Rebels.
During their run, Coates said the Lady Rebels went toe-to-toe with defending UIL Class 6A state champion Lewisville Hebron, and hung tough with Colleyville Heritage, which won the TVI silver bracket.
“We competed, we played good all weekend, but we didn’t play great,” Coates said.
Morton said better communication and aggressiveness could pay divideds moving forward.
“We have a tough preseason (schedule) because our district is tough,” Morton said. “We’re doing fine and we’re doing better than where we were last year starting off.”