The Hays Rebels proved Monday it’s not always how you start, but how you finish.
Despite falling into an early 2-0 hole against the in-county rival Dripping Springs Tigers, Hays, anchored by a 14-kill effort from senior Kaitlyn Krafka and junior Catherine Croft, rallied to secure a come-from-behind 15-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-9 victory.
Perseverance in the clutch is what head coach Stephanie Coates believed helped Hays pull off a key early-season win.
“They just refused to die,” Coates said. “We got close to dying, but they refused to die. They kept working until it worked out.”
Hays’ early match woes were a carryover from the team’s lethargic final day at the John Turner Classic tournament in Pearland. Hays closed tournament play by falling in two straight sets to Dripping Springs Saturday.
The lack of energy carried into the first two sets Monday as Dripping Springs easily jumped out to a commanding 2-0 match lead.
Consistency in attacking the middle of the court paid dividends for the Tigers Monday. Dripping Springs was led by senior Graceyn Tippens, who finished with 13 kills, along with junior Alexis Haydt, who finished with five kills.
“I expected this to be a war. On Saturday, we played them to perfection and took them out of the their game,” Tiger head coach Michael Kane said. “We did the same philosophy in this match. The same intensity, the same thing, the same result.”
On the Rebel side, Hays was unable to consistently generate points on offense, and struggled to defend at times. Krafka, Hays’ senior outside hitter, said the team was “going through the motions.”
“We were there, but we weren’t really there (mentally),” Krafka said.
But Dripping Springs suddenly lifted its collective foot off the gas pedal. Hays quickly took advantage.
The Rebels’ comeback bid began with a hard-fought 25-19 set victory. The Rebels then hung on late to tie the match 2-2 and force a fifth and decisive set. Helping Hays was serving tougher during the course of the rally. Rebel sophomore Ryann Torres and junior Catherine Croft each finished with three aces apiece; Hays finished with eight aces in the match.
As a result, Coates said the Tigers’ setter wasn’t able to distribute the balls effectively, which led to the Rebels being able to read the passes and set up the block.
Krafka said the Rebels pushed each other to play better and win the game.
“This is our last time to play Dripping Springs, especially for the seniors. We’re never going to be on this team again,” Krafka said. “Coates put that in our minds. We needed to put that effort on the court.”
Hays kept working and found its bearings to win in set five. Coates said the Rebels kept going and pushing forward, especially in the final set.
“Volleyball is a funny sport. The tides seem to change when you just don’t give up,” Coates said.
Hays’ marquee win closes a furious stretch where the Rebels played eight matches over a four-day period. That included taking on the likes of Class 5A powerhouse Prosper, as well as 6A state contender Richmond George Ranch, and Dripping Springs twice.
The Rebels now prepare to head to the Fraulein Tournament in New Braunfels, where they’ll take on New Braunfels, North Crowley and Brenham in pool play.
Coates said the team aims to top last season’s top five finish at Fraulein. Krafka said the tournament is another step in helping the team ready for district play.
“We’re trying to get better for district,” she said. “Everything we’re working for now is for district.”