The seniors didn’t accept youth as an excuse when Esha Atkins and Johlicia Williams were both underclassmen on the Killeen Lady Roos’ volleyball team.
So now that they are seniors, they’re not accepting it either.
“When I was a freshman, (the upperclassmen) were rude. This was something they loved and they were not going to play around with it,” Atkins said. “I know where these girls have been at. ... Everyone deserves a position on this team. We all have a role — it’s not just me or Johlicia or Tiare (Dugger) — and they need to believe in themselves.”
Round Rock Stony Point handed the Lady Roos a lopsided 25-9 Game 1 loss, but the Lady Roos rallied around their seniors to stretch their home-opening match to five games before eventually losing to the Lady Tigers 25-9, 13-25, 25-13, 20-25, 15-9.
“Those two right there — (Atkins and Williams) — throwing a fit and saying, ‘We’re not going to lose, ya’ll better step up play,’ I think that has a lot to do with it,” Killeen coach Shelly Harris said.
Atkins, in her own words, told the team in the break between Games 1 and 2 that they don’t just lose at home, at least not without a fight, and then stepped up and showed them how to win.
Atkins, who’s been on varsity since her freshman year, served seven straight points for Killeen, including two aces, for a 7-1 lead. And the Lady Roos (7-9) rolled with it. They led by as many as 12 and had seven different players score in the match.
“Ahh, Esha with her pep talks. Esha don’t play, she’ll tell you, ‘This is crap, you need to get it together right now or it’s going to be a world of hurt,’” said Williams, who’s been on varsity since her sophomore year. “She’s our captain, so she stepped up and said what she needed to say. And something motivated us and we just wanted to win.”
But all their fire and intensity disappeared in another lopsided loss, 25-13, in Game 3.
Stony Point scored nine of the first 11 points in the game, but the Lady Roos were never too far away. A couple of missed serves and misfires offensively and Killeen trailed just 14-10. But a serve into the net, a block by Stony Point’s Marissa Campbell and an ace from Lauryn Martin forced Killeen into a time out down 17-10.
A reversal on the court brought a reversal of motivation for Killeen in Game 4.
Atkins again set the tone early, serving the first four points, including an ace, for a 4-0 Killeen lead.
The Lady Roos led 17-10 before Stony Point rallied with six straight points to cut the lead to 17-16. A back-and-forth affair ensued, until Chalon Anderson scored on a kill for a 22-20 Killeen lead. McKenzie Jones followed with an ace and, out of a time out, Stony Point hit consecutive shots out of bounds to force the deciding fifth game.
“I feel like people might say it was a side (of the floor), but it’s not really a side,” Williams said. “I just felt like one time we were on it, one time were not; One time it was really good passes, really good serves, really good hits and then sometimes ... it’s just about mistakes and keeping our consistency.”
Atkins led off Game 5 with an ace and Killeen jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but Stony Point rattled off five straight points on the serving of Campbell for a 7-4 lead.
“We’re young and we’re still trying to figure out what we can do. I don’t think they realize how good we can be,” Harris said.
Added Atkins: “I don’t want to say the excuse is that we’re young because we all know the game of volleyball, I really just think it’s a lack of belief. No matter how young or how old and experienced we are, we all deserve to play as one, as a team on the floor.”