Anjane Janda may as well have been playing darts.
And the bulls-eye was at Tearra Roberson’s feet.
Hitting serve after serve to the back-middle corner of Shoemaker’s side of the court, just in front of or to the right of the Lady Grey Wolves’ senior captain, Janda rolled off five straight aces to spark an 8-0 Harker Heights run for a 17-5 advantage in Game 1.
“There was a big, big hole right there and I noticed that when they switched out there was a huge gap there in the back corner,” Janda said. “So it was just trying to see the little things and see if I could confuse them with the jump serves.”
Janda registered seven of the Lady Knights’ 15 total points off serves and added eight kills in a 25-7, 25-17, 25-13 road victory Tuesday at Shoemaker.
“AJ just found the spot that she liked, kinda like a sweet spot on a bat, and she just kept putting it right there,” Heights coach Chris Wiley said. “It was just the right spot to be hitting it.”
Coming off Friday’s 17-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-6 loss to No. 16 Copperas Cove, which in turn knocked Heights out of the state rankings, the Lady Knights (29-4, 5-1 8-5A) were focused on avoiding their first two-game losing streak all season and wanted to start a new one.
“We are a better team than that and we just let ourselves (get off course against Cove), so here today we needed to play like we knew how,” said senior middle blocker Deysia Burden, who led the way with 12 kills and four blocks.
Added Wiley: “You always want to come in and reestablish what was going good for you before.”
Junior middle blocker Kathleen Janda added five blocks and three kills while senior setter Katie Schulte paced Heights with 33 assists. Shoemaker (11-13, 0-6) remained winless in district despite an all-around performance from Roberson, who led with seven kills, six blocks and four digs.
But it was when Roberson rotated to the back row that the Lady Knights found their opening and took advantage, pulling away with scoring runs of 8-0 in the first two games and a 7-0 run by Janda in Game 3 immediately following Roberson’s serving opportunity.
“We didn’t cover and they caught us slipping,” said Lady Grey Wolves coach Merdith Shaw-Moore. “We didn’t do a very good job of covering and they took advantage of it.”
Shoemaker started strong in Game 2, earning its first lead on back-to-back stuff blocks by Roberson and then pulling ahead 12-8 after back-to-back kills from Takeyra Powell and Aria Price.
Usually one to let his team work through their mistakes, Wiley didn’t want to wait any longer and promptly called a timeout.
“It was about us doing our job,” Wiley said. “I always let the girls try and fix the mistakes before I use a timeout on it, because they know most of what I’m going to say in a timeout, so that was just more of slowing stuff down and get the momentum back our way.”
Right out of the timeout, the Lady Knights got a kill from Burden and Schulte followed with an ace off of Price before rolling up 8 straight points — including two more aces to the middle of the Shoemaker defense — to pull ahead for good 16-12.
“I figured they shouldn’t have a run, they shouldn’t have that big of a lead on a team like us, not to sound cocky,” Burden said.
Heights controlled things from the start in Game 3, mounting a 7-1 lead that was capped by a devastating kill from Janda that froze Shoemaker’s Aliyah Steeles along the back row.
The Lady Grey Wolves kept coming, pulling as close as 9-7 before Janda found her groove again, rolling off a 7-0 run from the service line that was started by a block by Kathleen Janda and capped by Anjane’s seventh ace of the night.
“For everyone else on the court, it gives them a boost, a big boost,” Janda said of scoring from the serving line.