BELTON — Madelyn Graves was nervous and scared.
The senior setter had transferred to Belton from Brazoswood and didn’t know what to expect when she joined the Lady Tigers volleyball team. She certainly didn’t expect to get the reception she ultimately received.
“They welcomed me really well — we’re friends, we hang out,” Graves said. “It just fits.”
Fellow senior and team veteran Alexus Dunning added: “She came in and we accepted her, so she already felt like a part of the team.” “We played with her a couple times this summer so we knew how she played, and she was comfortable out there.”
That was obvious Tuesday night in Belton’s 25-11, 25-11, 26-24 win over the Shoemaker Lady Wolves. Graves led all players with 12 assists while adding a seven-serve streak that included two aces and two assists.
Dunning said Graves and the rest of the Lady Tigers (25-11, 7-3 8-5A) fell in line perfectly during the first game of summer league.
“Graves is a really smart volleyball player so she knows what she’s doing, which is why she can set the ball like watermelons for the hitters,” said Belton coach Stacy Meyers. “I wish she was 6 inches taller so I could play her everywhere.”
But Graves didn’t need to be everywhere against the Lady Wolves (11-16, 0-10), only where she needed to be.
Her serving streak was a part of a 23-9 run in Game 2 where 13 Lady Tiger points came on Shoemaker errors.
“When your team does well, it boosts you up and gives you momentum and you just keep fighting, winning and getting points,” Graves said.
Things didn’t go as smoothly for Belton in Game 3 as Shoemaker refused to bow down despite being in a 2-0 deficit. There were nine ties during the game, three of which occurred after the 19-19 mark.
“I’m proud of my team for fighting the way they did in the third game,” said Lady Wolves coach Merdith Shaw-Moore. “They played the best I’ve seen them play all year in that game.”
The game started well enough for the Lady Tigers. Senior Lexie Johanson hit back-to-back aces to build an early 3-1 lead but Shoemaker standout Tearra Roberson, who led all players with 15 kills to go with three blocks and an ace of her own.
“We got ourselves into a rut so we looked at each other and said ‘it’s time’ and we worked harder,” Dunning said.
Shoemaker took a 14-12 lead after two straight kills by Roberson, but an out-of-rotation penalty evened the score again at 17-17
“Coach Meyers told us we needed to get our heads out of our butts and play — so we did,” Graves said.
Junior Brieanne Brown scored two of her team-high 11 kills to go with her four digs to give Belton a 24-22 lead that it didn’t hold. Shoemaker’s Maddi Woodard tied the game again at 24-24 with an ace.
But two more mistakes ended any hope of a Lady Wolves’ comeback.
“We played pretty well the first two games and got too (relaxed) in the third game and we played down to their level a little too much,” Meyers said. “But a win is a win and in district play that’s all that matters.”