Ellison only dropped one set in handing Salado its first loss of the season Tuesday, but for Ellison that was closer than it would have liked.
After Salado took the second set to tie the match, Ellison never trailed again, finishing strong in a 25-19, 23-25, 25-15, 25-13 win in its home opener at Ellison gym.
For Ellison (4-5), the final two sets weren’t as much of a turnaround as they were a reminder of what they can be.
“I feel like that’s how we should always play,” said Ellison senior Asia Howard, who had five kills, 15 assists and six aces in the match.
But that wasn’t how the match started for Ellison, as Salado (7-1) showed early that it wasn’t going to be intimidated in going against a larger school.
The Class 4A Lady Eagles began the match by staying close to Class 6A Ellison, which went on to win the set 25-19.
Ellison opened the second set with a 4-0 run, but Salado responded with a 4-1 run, eventually taking its first lead 15-14.
The rest of the set was a battle as Salado seized the lead for good on a Katie Robinson ace that put her team up 21-20. Robinson had 18 assists in the match.
Later, a crucial block by Malory Schattle, who had six kills in the match, put Salado up 23-21 as it held on for the 25-23 win to tie the match.
All of it was a welcome sight for first-year Salado head coach Heather Poeske.
“I liked it early on,” Poeske said. “We had a lot more intensity. We kind of lost our intensity towards the last two sets.”
For Ellison, however, it was the return of what has become a habit it would like to kick.
“We always get comfortable about what we’re doing and you can’t do that,” Ellison head coach William De Gracia said.
“You can’t let any team get in the game. And they did that once again in the second set. And it killed me.”
Ellison responded by stepping up its communication in the next two sets, in which it never trailed. The Lady Eagles said the goal is to do that all the time.
“When we don’t talk is when we actually mess up,” said Ellison senior Alysia Espada, who had a team-high 11 kills.
Bri’anna Gray added eight kills and six blocks for Ellison while Miranda Tapia had 12 assists and four aces.
Cheyenne Vaca had 12 kills for Salado, and Taylor Atwood added six kills.
And while Ellison wasn’t happy with its performance early in the match, the Lady Eagles were happier to see what they can be early in the young season.
“We still have room to grow and I’m excited,” De Gracia said. “We’re working towards our weaknesses.”