FLORENCE — Kelly Stephens’ team played with urgency, but it was too late.
Florence opened its District 22-2A schedule against state-recognized Cameron Yoe on Tuesday evening, and after winning the opening set, fell flat, getting outscored 47-20 during one run stretching across the second and third sets.
Despite their struggles, the Lady Buffaloes forced a deciding set, but could not complete the comeback, losing 21-25, 25-12, 25-20, 17-25, 15-11.
After the match, Florence’s head coach admitted her team simply did not have the intensity it needed for a majority of the match.
“We need to play every game like we played the fifth game,” Stephens said. “We should get on the floor for everything, like we are going to lose if we don’t get the ball up. So that is what we are going to be focusing on this week.”
Florence senior Shali Simpson agreed with Stephens’ assessment concerning the team’s late-arriving aggression.
“(After the third set) we decided that we just really wanted to win,” the setter said. “So we stepped up our game and pushed to win the game. We played well, but we’ll have to come back and get them next time.”
Early in the match, the Lady Buffaloes appeared focused, taking an immediate 7-2 lead before Cameron Yoe, which is listed under honorable mentions in the latest Texas Girls Coaches Association’s state poll, used the first of several scoring outbursts to erase any emotional advantage Florence possessed.
The Lady Yoe won eight consecutive points to take a 17-13 lead, but Simpson’s serving triggered an identical 8-0 run, leading Florence to an opening-set victory.
It appeared as if the Lady Buffaloes carried the momentum into the second set, but a 7-2 lead vanished almost instantly as the Lady Yoe embarked on an epic run, using an 11-1 run and 12-3 run to close out the second set.
The Lady Buffaloes played to an 11-11 tie to start the third set, but once again, Cameron Yoe had an answer.
The Lady Yoe won 13 of the next 17 points to take complete control of the set. Florence thwarted four set points before eventually succumbing to Cameron Yoe.
“It is those lapses in play where we let the other team get six or seven points in a row (that really hurt us),” Stephens said. “We can’t have that if we are going to win.
“I just don’t think we were communicating as well as we should have been (in the second and third sets). We were waiting on other people to do our jobs, and we just need to do our own job.”
With their backs against the wall, Florence jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the fourth set and held a comfortable margin throughout to force a fifth set with relative ease, but Cameron Yoe never trailed in the deciding set.
Simpson led the Lady Buffaloes in almost every statistical category, finishing with 21 kills, 23 assists and nine aces, while teammate Jenny Roche had a team-high 14 digs.
“I was ready to go, and I was ready to play,” Simpson said.
“I played my heart out the best I could.”
It was not enough, though, according to Stephens.
“We need to go out and compete and play like our life is on the line every single time,” she said. “It’s the 24th point every single time. We are still getting the hang of that, but it is coming around.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com