Ellison coach William De Gracia has told his team countless times to not think that the final point is any different than any other point.
Tuesday night, they listened.
The Lady Eagles rallied to score the last four points in Game 3 and held off the visiting Shoemaker Lady Grey Wolves 25-20, 25-15, 25-23.
"That was a close game, but Coach D teaches us to not play timid ... and to not change up our hitting at the end - to hit it like you always hit it," said Ellison senior Megan McKinnon.
Ellison (15-20, 5-5 District 12-5A)
escaped with the win after McKinnon came up with a big cross-court kill to tie Game 3 at 22-22 and middle blocker Kaitlyn Shearer dropped a block into a hole in the Shoemaker defense to close out the match.
Shoemaker (12-17, 1-9) tied the match at 13-13 and led 18-17 thanks to kills by Hailee Showers, who led the Lady Grey Wolves with nine. The junior outside hitter also had a kill to keep the match alive at 24-23, but it was not enough.
"When Tearra (Roberson) and Hailee are not getting seven kills apiece we struggle," said Shoemaker coach Merdith Shaw-Moore. "I think overall as a team that everyone did their parts at different moments and Hailee did what she could to keep us in it, but one person can't win a game."
Ellison was missing its starting middle blocker Chelsea Grant, who was sitting out for "personal reasons" according to De Gracia.
Without Grant, Ellison relied on the hitting and blocking of McKinnon and Shearer. McKinnon led the Lady Eagles with 10 kills and Shearer added nine kills and five blocks.
"With Chelsea gone, we knew had to make up for the blocks that she had, so we decided to play big on the net," McKinnon said.
Shoemaker jumped up 4-0 in Game 1 after back-to-back kills by Showers. However, a block by Shearer and a kill by McKinnon edged the Lady Eagles back into the match.
"They were reading the hitters and that is what I need them to do," De Gracia said. "A problem we have been having is we jump when they hit the ball instead of jumping before.
"When they set it, that is when you need to go up - to make them (opposing hitters) change their mind."
Ellison had an easier time in Game 2, jumping out to a 9-3 lead early. However, the Lady Eagles made errors on five of the next six points to let Shoemaker back in the game.
Up 17-14, Shearer had her best stretch of the night, picking up kills on the four of the next nine points to cap an 8-1 Lady Eagle run.
"It seems like sometimes we take two steps forward and four steps back. We can't allow ourselves to go backward off one mistake," Shaw-Moore said. "We have to keep pushing."
The win was key for Ellison, which plays its next two games against teams fighting with them for the fourth and final playoff sport in 12-5A.
"This was very important because to make the playoffs we have to win four and right now and looking forward we have Heights, Bryan and Belton - teams we match up with," De Gracia said. "So we have to have this game give us positive energy and the confidence to win those games."
Contact Nick Talbot at email@example.com or (254) 501-7569