By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
It was a rousing rally cry made for the big screen.
"We have the talent to win! We need to show it - now!"
An emotional Alayshia Hunter was imploring her fellow Ellison teammates to respond after dropping the first game to visiting Pflugerville Hendrickson on Tuesday.
"I love my team to death, but I want to show people and everybody at Ellison that we can do it," Hunter said. "... We have the talent here in Killeen to beat
everybody, and I want people to see that. We've got to have the heart to do that, and that was my heart."
Unfortunately, the junior middle blocker's inspirational pep talk couldn't lift her team past Hendrickson, which swept 25-14, 25-15, 25-18.
The home loss stung for a team fresh off a three-match win streak after winning its pool at the West volleyball tournament this weekend.
Despite the loss, Ellison coach Cari Nanna was invigorated by her team's performance.
"I think through the entire match, the girls didn't really give up at all," Nanna said. "Obviously, (Hendrickson) was a harder team than we have been playing, but the girls showed that they are able to play against teams like that."
The Lady Eagles were led offensively with six and four kills from juniors Megan McKinnon and Hunter, respectively, 14 assists from Brea Wade, and six aces from Stephanie Wasson.
Coming out of the gate fast, Ellison (7-6) built a 6-1 advantage early in the first game before the Lady Hawks found a rhythm, ultimately cutting the lead to 10-8.
Following a 16-2 Hendrickson run, in which the Lady Eagles contributed eight unforced errors, the Lady Hawks were able to turn the tide and put Ellison away 25-14.
Immediately following that collapse, Hunter did her part to circle the wagons, much to the enjoyment of her coach.
"It was very nice for Alayshia to step in and get them motivated and fired up," Nanna said. "A lot of the girls do it in a more quiet sense, but it was nice for someone to be loud about it."
The motivating spark seemed to pay off early in the second game as Ellison went mostly point-for-point with Hendrickson, pulling within one at 12-11.
But with a 4-0 run, the Lady Hawks built themselves a comfortable five-point advantage that they carried over until closing out the game on a 5-0 run to win 25-15.
"It just shows that there are still things we need to work on, and the girls are ready to work on that stuff," Nanna said.
The third game went much like the previous two as both teams battled point-for-point to a 7-7 deadlock before Hendrickson scored the next five points to build a 13-8 advantage that began with a pair of kills from Nicole Thomas and ended with one by Blaine Koester.
Ellison pulled within four points following a kill by McKinnon, but after three more kill-attempts failed to land inbounds, the Lady Hawks stretched their lead to 18-10.
From there, both teams went back and forth before an errant Lady Eagles' serve sealed the sweep.
"I see improvement and I see room for improvement," Nanna said. "I see a team that's ready to push themselves to make it to playoffs."