A sluggish start proved too much for the Lehman Lobos to weather Tuesday as they fell to the Akins Eagles in a 13-25, 10-25, 25-23, 20-25 district opening loss at the Lobo Den.
But the fight Lehman displayed in the final two sets, which included the program’s first set win in eight district matches, gave head coach Karen Young confidence in the amount of progression made so far this season.
“It’s a great thing for the girls. It’s an eye opener that they can do it, and it’s the mindset we need to keep working,” Young said. “As long as we can believe we can do it, we can do anything.”
Lehman struggled to gain its footing early on, hindered by hitting and defensive errors. Akins took advantage and rolled its way to a dominant 2-0 match lead and the opportunity for a sweep.
Young said part of the issue was getting inexperienced players to overcome first district match jitters. She said many of her players had not been in a high-pressure situation before.
“That was a learning curve in it of itself,” Young said. “Once we got that under our belt, we played Lehman volleyball and was big.”
Lehman also had to contend with a taller and more experienced Eagle lineup. Leading Akins was sophomore middle blocker Shanti Ramdeen, who scored a game-high 11 kills and four blocks. Behind Ramdeen was senior Emily De La Garza and freshman Mak’hi Falkquay, who each scored eight kills.
Even with their backs against the wall, Lehman worked to fight back. The Lobos did so by going punch-for-punch with Akins in a wild third set that had eight ties and three lead changes. Eventually, the Lobos pulled away due in part to key play from their offense, led by Olivia Scheibmeir, who finished with a team high five kills.
Smarter play at the net proved a vital component for offensive success, along with consistency in passing and ball control, Young said. Sound defense, especially against Ramdeen and the Eagle offense also played a vital role.
Young said the Lobos’ approach was to slow down Akins at the net despite the size advantage. Doing so gave Lehman a chance to set up its offense.
“One thing we pride ourselves on is making sure we get the ball up. Once we do that, it allows us to do certain things with our hitters,” Young said. “It allows us to have some variety, instead of only one or two options.”
Scheibmeir said belief in their abilities provided the most motivation for success.
“She (Young) told us that weren’t playing like ourselves and we needed to work hard and be aggressive,” Scheibmeir said.
Lehman carried that momentum into the fourth set, where they kept pace with Akins. A kill from Lobo Lauren Laura pulled the Lobos to within one point of Akins at 19-18.
Lehman couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way as the Eagles closed the match on a 6-2 run.
Teaching players how to handle the pressure of a close contest will be a goal for Young as the season continues.
“We’ve done a lot better during the preseason than we did all of last season,” Scheibmeir said. “We’re going to fight.”
Lehman travels to play in the Ragin’ Rattler tournament in San Marcos this weekend, which is then followed by an away district match against Westlake Aug. 28. Lehman hosts Anderson Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m.