FLORENCE — With her team gathered around her, Shoemaker volleyball head coach Merdith Shaw-Moore didn’t comment on her team’s poor showing in their first match of the day.
Instead she repeated one word several times — “redemption.”
The Lady Grey Wolves earned it Saturday by finishing third in the Florence Invitational Volleyball Tournament. In the first match, Shoemaker was outperformed in every aspect against eventual tournament winner Round Rock Christian (7-0) — falling to the Lady Crusaders in two games, 25-2 and 25-14. At one point during Game 1, Round Rock held a 17-0 lead and led Game 2 18-6 before Trinity Person scored two aces during a four-point run for the Lady Wolves.
“In this game you can get knocked down and you can get knocked out,” Moore said. “But just because you’re down doesn’t mean you can’t get back up.”
The Lady Wolves (5-2) didn’t just get back up; they shook off what could have been a demoralizing setback and took the court with a confidence not seen from the squad during last year’s dismal season.
Standing between Shoemaker and a top-three finish was tournament host Florence, which had lost to Jarrell 25-21, 25-18 in the other semifinal.
The Lady Wolves took their newfound confidence against the Lady Buffs (1-4) and won handily, 25-13 and 25-18.
“It’s a different breed of girls. They all got their mind right this year,” Moore said. “We’ve never been one of the known teams around here so we are really hungry.”
Senior Tearra Roberson led the way for Shoemaker with seven kills and four blocks. In Game 1, she tallied three points in a five-point span that started with a ferocious block on Florence senior Haley Pluenneke, who led the Lady Buffs with five assists against Shoemaker and had nine against Jarrell. The block pushed the lead to 15-7. After a Person ace that made it 16-7, Roberson nailed back-to-back kills that put the game out of reach.
“There are some things that we need to clean up, we are at the point now where we are knocking the rust off and trying to get where we want to be,” said Florence coach Brett Gola. “We did some good things out there but we had a few letdowns and that really turned the momentum on us.”
Rebecca Horton led Florence with five kills.
Game 2 was closer — for awhile.
“We cleaned up some things that we did wrong in the first match,” Moore said. “It shows the growth of this new team but we are still a work in progress.”
The game was back-and-forth during the early going and after back-to-back aces for Lady Buffs junior Shali Simpson, the game was knotted at 11-11. That’s when Shoemaker’s Anessa Pitts served her team to four-straight points, two of which were aces.
“In that first game, we kind of got frozen,” Roberson said. “(Against Florence) we were more comfortable and relaxed.”
Moore was undoubtedly pleased with the results but admitted her team has work to do.
“They have the ability and the talent, now they just have to put it together,” she said.
Roberson added she has full faith that her squad will continue to prove the pre-season prognosticators wrong.
“They put us at the bottom, but (third place) shows that Shoemaker is still alive,” Roberson said. “We want to show everyone that we can be competitive.”
She also had a playful warning to anyone else that doubts the Lady Wolves.