ACADEMY — Ellison emerged from the Academy Lady Bee Classic with the championship. More importantly, the Lady Eagles returned home with confidence.
After sweeping its three pool-play matches Friday, Ellison returned to the court Saturday, looking to work its way through the tournament’s Gold bracket with three more victories.
Early on, it appeared the Lady Eagles were poised to continue cruising to the championship, defeating Waco University 25-13, 25-14 in the first round, but then, they were challenged.
Facing host Academy in the semifinals, Ellison lost the first set before falling into a 18-10 hole in the second set.
“I was just thinking we had to pull this together,” Lady Eagles junior Nasiyah Smith said, “and that the next point had to be ours.”
Ellison responded with seven unanswered points, allowing it to even the score before capturing the victory 24-26, 25-22, 25-21 and proceeding to sweep Lorena 25-16, 25-19 in the finals.
Following the wins, Lady Eagles setter Jakarta Hope admitted the comeback against Academy altered her perception.
“I will never have any sort of doubt in my team again,” the senior said. “If we ever get down, I know we can pick each other up, and it won’t affect our play.
“This is just a really great feeling.”
Things could have ended very differently, though.
On the heels of a back-and-forth opening set against the Lady Bumblebees, Ellison lost control as Academy used a 14-5 outburst to open an 18-10 advantage.
With their title hopes on the line, however, the Lady Eagles retaliated, taking their first lead since 5-4 when Hope set up Smith for a kill to make the score 20-19.
Moments later, Ellison secured the set before clinching the win with six consecutive points to close the third set, and in the finals, the Lady Eagles never trailed.
“We fought so hard to win the game against Academy,” Ellison head coach Sarah Stolley said, “and we weren’t going to blow it.
“Then, the momentum definitely carried over.”
While earning a championship is always nice, the Lady Eagles’ timing is critical with Ellison (17-7) opening its District 12-6A schedule Tuesday at No. 8 Copperas Cove.
“This definitely gives us a lot of fire moving forward,” Hope said. “We play every team like we are in district in order to get us ready. So, for us to play this hard before district even starts, I’m certain we will do good.”
“We are all walking out of here knowing that we can fight,” she said. “So, no matter what gets thrown at us in district, we can refer to moments like this.”
SALADO WINS SILVER BRACKET CONSOLATION
Despite losing four consecutive matches going back to Thursday’s pool play, Salado found its rhythm Saturday afternoon and won the silver bracket’s consolation championship.
The Lady Eagles opened pool play with a victory against Pflugerville Weiss before losing to Lorena, West and Rogers. Then, they fell in their first match of bracket play to Thrall on Saturday.
Salado did not lose again, though, defeating Rosebud-Lott in the semifinals and McGregor in the consolation final.
SATURDAY’S HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Academy Lady Bee Classic
- Ellison def. Waco University 25-13, 25-14
- Ellison def. Lorena 25-16, 25-19
- Ellison def. Academy 24-26, 25-22, 25-21
- Belton def. Pflugerville 25-17, 25-22
- Belton def. Leander 25-15, 25-18
- Copperas Cove def. Fairfield 25-7, 25-14
- Copperas Cove def. Robinson 25-19, 25-12
- Copperas Cove def. Lago Vista 25-8, 25-8
- Gatesville def. Nacogdoches 25-10, 25-11
- Waco Reicher def. Gatesville 26-24, 25-18
- Gatesville def. Waco La Vega 25-12, 25-7