The Little Elm volleyball team needed less than a month to match its entire win total from a year ago – not only equal but also more than double that figure.
The Lady Lobos downed Crandall 2-0 (25-17, 25-18) to open pool play in the Mesquite Varsity Tournament on Thursday to improve to 5-9 on the season. Little Elm lost its other two matches on the day, falling to Prosper Rock Hill 2-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-11) and Woodrow Wilson. The final score of the Woodrow Wilson vs. Little Elm (5-9) match was not made available.
Three of Little Elm’s wins this season came at the Duncanville Tournament of Champions on Aug. 13-14, when the Lady Lobos earned victories over Mesquite (25-15, 25-16), Skyline (25-13, 25-21) and Harker Heights (25-20, 25-10).
Little Elm’s fourth win of the season came Aug. 20 in the form of a 3-0 (25-5, 25-7, 25-11) rout of Wilmer-Hutchins.
“The fact that we did that during the first few weeks of the season has been nice for the girls because they had not had a win in over a year,” said first-year Little Elm head coach Veronica Mendez. “It was nice to get some wins and some confidence under our belts. We lacked a little confidence when we started (Tuesday) and we just finally came alive in this match.”
Little Elm hosted Forney and Frisco Heritage on Tuesday. Although the Lady Lobos had lots of good moments during the second and third sets of each match, Little Elm couldn’t overcome a pair of slow starts in suffering two straight 3-0 losses, falling 25-13, 25-20, 25-18 to Forney and 25-10, 25-21 and 25-18 to Heritage.
In the second set against Forney, Little Elm cut what had been a 20-14 lead for the Jackrabbits to 20-19. However, Forney answered with a 5-1 run to close out the set for a 2-0 lead in the match.
Now down two sets to none, Little Elm came out the aggressor in the third set. The Lady Lobos raced out to a 10-7 lead after a ball hit by senior outside hitter Emma Robinson rolled over the net and onto the court for a kill.
Forney took advantage of a hitting error by Little Elm on the next point and the Jackrabbits made a nice dig on the ball on the ensuing play to trim the Lady Lobos’ lead to 10-9.
Although Little Elm held a 13-12 lead a few points later, Forney regrouped and proceeded to hit its groove. Jackrabbits junior Sydney Johnson recorded a kill and a block on each of the next two points to spark a match-ending 13-4 run for Forney.
In the final match of the night, Heritage’s firepower on the front row proved too much. Clemson pledge Mia Moore had four kills just in the first set – a game that the Coyotes won by 15 points.
But just like in its first match of the night, Little Elm’s mental toughness again showed in its play during the second and third sets against Heritage.
In the second set, the Lady Lobos jumped out to a 6-4 lead in the first set after a service ace by junior Yasmin Lira and later a 17-11 advantage after sophomore Quinn Brignac turned back a kill attempt by Moore.
But Heritage showed that it isn’t just Moore that can step up when the Coyotes need a timely play.
Cherie Neal tallied two blocks and a kill over the next four points, and senior Crociata Kennedy added an ace to jump-start a big comeback by Heritage. The Coyotes took the lead for good after the Lady Lobos hit the ball into the net for a 22-21 Heritage advantage.
Little Elm started the third set with a service ace by Nasryah Jefferson, but Heritage proceeded to pick up where it left off at the end of the second set.
Although the Coyotes rallied to overtake the Lady Lobos for good, it wasn’t until when Moore notched three straight kills later in the set to help Heritage claim the momentum.
Despite the loss, Mendez said that she has been proud of the way that Little Elm’s players have responded to her coaching.
“The girls are receiving me very well and they’re kind of responding to my coaching style,” she said. “We’re getting to know each other very well and I’ve been pretty receptive and responding to them very well. Having girls who have played a lot of volleyball before and just need to make some tweaks and building some little things that we have worked on in practice has helped. Slow progress but still progress.”