WAXAHACHIE — Through the first three matches we saw glimpses. On Friday in a sweep of Midlothian, Audrey Nalls treated Lady Indian fans to the show they have patiently waited to see since August.
After losing in round one of district play in five sets to the Lady Panthers less than one month ago, (24-14, 7-4) Waxahachie swept (25-12, 8-3) Midlothian on Friday night in George W. Solis Gymnasium, 25-16, 25-24, 25-22.
Following the win, Waxahachie head volleyball coach Sandy Faussett couldn’t wipe the grin off her face as she spoke to the Lady Indians near the bench and on their way to the locker room, and rightfully so. With the victory, Waxahachie needs just one win over its final three regular season matches to clinch one of four District 10-5A playoff spots.
And, with the encouraging play of Nalls, the Lady Indians have plenty to be excited about when looking toward the postseason.
“We know it is there and we knew it was coming. We know what she is capable of, but there are just those little things that take some time like timing issues,” said Faussett of the junior all-around asset. “She just had to get her confidence back to where it is because she was out for such a long time. She had a couple really good practices and it clicked for her tonight. I thought the timing was great between her and the setters. She was focused.”
Nalls recorded a match-high 20 kills on 40 swings and had just four errors in the three-set sweep. She also added a team-high three blocks against Texas A&M commit Sydney Little and the Lady Panthers. Little finished with nine kills, while Aliyah Muhammad added five and Samantha Rodgers had four.
The Lady Panthers committed 21 hitting errors on their 95 attempts for a 0.32 hitting percentage.
“I don’t think we ever really got settled into our game plan,” said first-year Midlothian head volleyball coach Teresa Dunn. “I think we were constantly having to figure out what they were doing on the other end and we never really got into our groove to do the things that we do well.”
After Waxahachie won the first set reasonably cleanly, 25-16, the Lady Indians took a 19-12 lead into a Midlothian timeout in set number two. Nalls promptly rejected a Little attempt from the left and Little sent the next shot too long and put the Lady Indians up 21-12.
A few serves later, Courtney Crownover added a kill and Midlothian’s Muhammad responded with one of her own, but Nalls fired a Stoops assist home to push Waxahachie to game point, 24-14.
Lacy Mott promptly sent the set-winner home through a Lady Panther block to clinch set two for Waxahachie, 25-14.
Midlothian took the first point of set three before giving the ball back to Waxahachie on a service error.
The Lady Panthers then used a pair of Kelby Buchanan kills and also capitalized on a long rally to force Faussett into a timeout with the Lady Indians trailing early 5-3.
“They came out in the third set and used more of a finesse game,” said Faussett of the quick timeout after noticing the Lady Panthers’ switch in their attack. “I just told them we needed to make sure to keep their feet and make sure the blockers are doing what they need to do because that can be easy as long as you communicate well.”
Waxahachie then quickly put together an 8-2 run for an 11-7 lead behind three Nalls kills.
The four-point lead shrunk to three a few serves later on back-to-back unforced errors for the Lady Indians but a Lady Panther gift, Baylee Whitehead ace, and Crownover kill put Waxahachie up 18-13 as they closed in on the sweep.
Crownover again connected out of the timeout and Ragan Ward sent home an ace to put Waxahachie up 20-14.
Midlothian pulled back within three, 22-19, and then trailed by just two a couple serves later 23-21. With Waxahachie suddenly struggling to find consistency on offense and the momentum swinging, Faussett called a timeout to regroup the Lady Indians.
“We kept putting the setter too tight where she couldn’t run the offense. She was trying to jump and pull it out (of the net) and not use her elbows,” Faussett recalled. “So I just told them, let’s just pass the ball four feet off the net and give her some room to get you a good ball to hit. Just calm down.”
Out of the timeout, Little connected on her first swing for a kill but sent the next one passed the boundary to push the Lady Indians to match point, 24-22.
Macie Milholen then rejected a Midlothian free ball down the right side to complete the sweep, 25-16, 25-14, 25-22.
For Waxahachie, Crownover finished the match with seven kills and no errors, Essence Clerkley added four and Mott had six. Taylor Stoops recorded 30 assists and Ward had five.
Faussett was quick to point to the solid play of her back row, too.
“All of our kids played really well back there,” she said. They have all been playing really solid. Those are our skill kids and we expect them to handle the ball well and they did that tonight.”
As a team, the Lady Panthers recorded 34 digs and were led by Buchanan’s seven. Tara Groden and Little added five digs, Aryn Walton and Destiny Leatherwood had four, and Madee Riley finished with three. Kamryn Owen led Midlothian with 21 assists.
Waxahachie will travel to Mansfield Summit on Tuesday, while Midlothian returns home to face Mansfield Legacy. Both matches are scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first serve.