Brianna Gray leaped into the air and unleashed a last-ditch effort. The spike sailed past the Marble Falls defenders and landed untouched on the hardcourt with a smack — two inches past the backline.
The Ellison outside hitter, much like the rest of the Lady Eagles, had come up just short, falling to the Lady Mustangs 25-23, 25-20, 25-23.
“It was the pressure,” Ellison coach William De Gracia said. “I have some young kids and I am trying to work them into the rotation ... They just have to learn about the pressure.”
Kaylai Lewis put the Lady Eagles up early, 10-6, with a pair of kills. But the lead quickly evaporated as Hanna Wall picked up the first of her seven kills to bring the Lady Mustangs within 11-10 and a string of Ellison errors put Marble Falls up 17-12.
Gray and Alysia Espada, who led the Lady Eagles with eight kills, each picked up kills as Ellison cut the lead to 19-18. Down the stretch, though, the Lady Eagles faded. Sarah Lewis set the Lady Mustangs up at match point, 24-20, with a kill and then Wall uncorked a game-winning cross-court shot.
“I believe we have stronger hitters than (Marble Falls), but they played the ball well and forced us to get back in defense quickly and that hurt us a little bit,” De Gracia said. “I have to get them to move from covering their block to base defense.”
In Game 2, Marble Falls and Ellison continued the back-and-forth affair. Neither team led by more than two points until Amanda Thomas came up with a kill to put the Lady Mustangs up 12-9. Jackie Winn then had a big block to put Marble Falls up 17-12. Again, Ellison battled back.
Kills by Espada and Gray cut the Lady Mustangs’ lead back to one, 21-20, but that’s when Gray’s last-ditch effort missed the backline.
“Some of those were godsend points. We really got lucky on some of them,” Marble Falls coach Julie Downs said. “Both teams played really well and (Ellison is) so athletic. I think we were just more consistent putting the ball away. And that was the only difference between us.”
Ellison took the lead in Game 3, only to see Marble Falls rip off eight of the next 11 points.
Again, the Lady Mustangs’ lead didn’t last. Asia Howard came up with a block and a kill to tie the game at 13-13.
And then she came up with another block and a tip to tie the game at 23-23. However, Wall hit the final of her seven kills and Ellison ended the match on a net violation.
“We got caught on (some things), but I am not disappointed in my girls,” De Gracia said. “They played hard ... It was good volleyball. The fans were excited. They only thing is we are not finishing.”
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569