FLORENCE — A fierce volleyball contest between Florence and Salado ended ugly Tuesday night after Salado coach Tara Hatfield stormed off the court after confronting the officials.
Matters quickly escalated as parents from the Salado fan section also came down, and there was at least one threat leveled at one official by an angry parent.
All of this marred an impressive five-set win by Florence 25-20, 25-21, 24-26, 21-25, 15-9.
Hatfield was warned by an official during the final set and was forced to sit down the remainder of the match.
"I was tired of her complaining over every call" said the official, who declined to give his name. "It was time for her to sit down."
Hatfield also directed her ire towards Florence coach Kelly Stephens after the match, saying, "That was not an evenly called match, and you know it."
Stephens responded by asking Hatfield if she was accusing her of cheating, upon which time Hatfield was escorted out of the building by Salado assistants and parents.
During this time, an angry parent came onto the court and confronted one of the officials, and according to one official, vocalized threats toward a member of the crew.
Hatfield's actions, and the actions of at least one parent, were reported to the Texas Association of Sports Officials. Hatfield was unavailable for comment after the game.
"I've never seen anything like that in my coaching career," Stephens said. "It's an emotional game. I have no hard feelings towards her, and I hope she doesn't have any towards me either."
"It was really unfortunate that this happened," Florence principal Harold Steele said. "I know people can get fired up, but this was too far. I am glad that there was an off-duty Salado (police) officer there who got up and helped calm things down. I've been here seven years, and I've never seen anything like that."
The end-of-game confrontation marred a competitive game between two schools that resulted in a rare win for Florence over Salado.
"This year we're focused on the theme of redemption; to redeem ourselves for our past losses and mistakes," Stephens said. "Beating Salado tonight was a great step towards achieving that theme."
Florence was led by seniors Shali Simpson (24 assists) and Rebecca Horton (21 kills).
"I couldn't ask for anything more from them," Stephens said. "They stepped up out there and played like seniors, they played like captains. They showed today why they play and how you play. They left everything out on the court tonight."
The first set was defined by slow play from both teams, with each side giving up several easy points to the other. Florence came out to a commanding lead after a five-point run to go up 13-7, and didn't look back after that. Communication errors marked Salado's efforts in the first set, but after Hatfield's second timeout, the team began to put together a string of points before falling in the first set 25-20.
In the second game, the Lady Buffs quickly jumped to a 4-0 lead. Salado quickly called a timeout with the score 5-1, but Florence eventually prevailed 25-21.
Game 3 saw a much different Salado team. The Lady Eagles prevented Florence runs and took a 26-24 win.
Salado continued its tough play into the fourth game, which saw junior Taylor Atwood begin dominating at the net. Salado sophomore Cheyenne Vaca continued her fantastic play throughout the game as well, and despite some great play from Simpson, communication breakdowns haunted the Lady Buffs as they eventually fell to Salado in the fourth set, 25-21.
Game 5 was all Florence as the Lady Buffs rattled off five straight points during one stretch to take a 9-6 lead, and later a 12-7 lead, eventually winning the set and the match.