Florence volleyball players huddle during their match against Austin Royals on Tuesday in Florence.

FLORENCE — The Florence Lady Buffs know that they have the ability to climb out of a big hole and get back into a match. 

But the thing head coach Kelly Stephens hopes the team will learn is how to avoid falling into one.

“We’ve been putting ourselves in a hole every game that we play and try to focus on clawing back out of it,” Stephens said. “We just got to not put ourselves in that hole to begin with. When we do put ourselves in that hole, it kind of knocks the wind out of us and it’s hard to come back from that.”

Despite five kills and 18 digs from Hannah Hurley and eight assists from Brooklynne Owens, Florence was swept by the Austin Royals home-school team 25-23, 25-22 and 25-13 at the Florence High gymnasium on Tuesday.

Mackenzie Futrell had a strong game from the serving line with three aces, while Clarissa Carranco led the Florence defense with 18 digs and Harlie Byrne helped out up front with two solo blocks.

“I think if we would have started out a little higher and not missed as many serves, we would have done well,” Futrell said. “I think the last game, we just got tired, and we couldn’t push through it.”

After dropping Game 1, the Lady Buffs held a 9-8 lead over the Royals before Austin used an 11-1 run to take a commanding 10-point lead in Game 2 and force a Florence timeout.

Though the Lady Buffs were in a hole, the leaders on the team made sure there was no panic in the huddle.

“Our captains and our seniors are really encouraging to us and it really brings us up,” Byrne said about the rally attempt. “Just the encouragement and the intensity brings us up.”

Florence rallied after the timeout as a Peyton Faulkner spike from the left side followed by a Royals attack error cut the Austin lead to 23-22.

The Royals scored the final two points to take Game 2 and a 2-0 lead in the match.

“A lot of times you spend all of your energy yelling and cheering and I think that we get too excited when we get a good play,” Futrell said. “I think that we need to move on and go to the next play.”

Austin made sure there would be no rally as the Lady Buffs did not score more than two consecutive points in the third frame and the Royals rode a 12-7 lead to a win.

“I felt like in the third game we lost all of our steam, the wind got knocked out of our sails a little bit and we couldn’t get it back,” Stephens said.

Despite the loss, Stephens is encouraged by the way the Lady Buffs responded to the strategic changes and lineup changes in recent weeks, such as adding freshman Juana Macedo to the varsity team and giving young players like Byrne more playing time.

“We’re basically getting them ready for the next few years,” Stephens said. “If they screw up now, that’s OK. As long as they’re learning what their job is for the future.”

The Lady Buffs return to the court on Tuesday when they visit Shoemaker.

Contact Albert Alvarado at alvarado@kdhnews.com

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