SALADO Jenna Franz's face said it all.
Lying on the ground after diving for what would be the second of three straight aces from Leander Vandegrift's Bryn Recker late in Game 5, the Salado senior libero couldn't hide her frustration as she was helped to her feet. "It was kind of hard because we're used to Game 5s (where we) go out with a big fight, and always coming out on top," Franz said. "But when the first couple of points didn't go our way, we kind of settled down and hung our heads."
Despite the sluggish finish Tuesday, in which Vandegrift scored 11 of the final 15 points in Game 5 and won the match 22-25, 25-17, 25-13, 23-25, 15-8, the Lady Eagles didn't hang their heads long. Not two matches into the season.
"I think it's all just a big learning experience, we're not going to be perfect right at the beginning of the season," Franz said. "We know there are still changes to be made and have to be patient and know that we'll work them out before district starts."
Senior hitter Sarah Toler led Salado (1-1) with 18 kills, setter Madi DePriest had 33 assists and Franz added 12 digs. One day after registering six aces, senior blocker Meredith Ward had just one but did manage three blocks.
Coming out with a roster that was nearly half the size of 4A Vandegrift's, the 2A Lady Eagles used that early chip on their shoulders and pulled away in Game 1 with a 4-0 run on the serving of DePriest for a 17-12 advantage. The Lady Vipers' 19 errors didn't hurt much either.
"I think we surprised them. We had them out of system quite a bit in Game 1 and got a win for our side," said Salado coach Rachel Lee. "But in Game 2, that shifted a little bit. They started coming out and didn't have as many service errors or as many hitting errors."
Game 3 wasn't much better for Salado, which had 14 unforced errors before Vandegrift's Morgan Waggoner closed out the rout with an 8-0 run from the service line, including four aces.
"We had a lot of hitting errors at that point, and I don't get upset about that as long as they're aggressive errors, but you can't take 3, 4, 5 in a row. It's time to put the ball on the other side," Lee said. "And by the time we did that, it changed momentum, but it was almost too late."
Battling through six more ties, a kill by Shyenne Hicks landed just inside the right line on a ball the Lady Vipers to had given up on before Toler capped the 25-23 win with a dominating kill between three defenders.
"I think from what we came off of, we didn't want that to happen again, so we just kind of kicked it into gear and wanted it more," Ward said.
But that gear fell off course in Game 5 as some untimely communication lapses by the Lady Eagles allowed Vandergrift to turn a 7-5 advantage into a 13-5 lead to send Salado to its first loss of the season.
"We had what I would consider a few communication and responsibility errors, but understand, that is because I've got nine kids and I'm moving two in and out of two different positions while they're on the court," Lee explained. "They're having to respond every single point. Is that overwhelming, is that tough on a kid? Yeah, absolutely."
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566