In 5-set thriller, Mac earns respect but not a win
A Wiley veteran
All in this together
Regrouping for the next battle
It takes two
Put up a fight
Hall of fame
Going the distance
The image of outside hitter Preslie Boswell embracing middle hitter Shaine Rozman tells the story of the Knights’ Friday battle against Lockhart in a single snapshot.
Both players are smiling but they also appear to be on the verge of tears.
“This was during the fifth set,” Rozman remembered after the match. “I had just gotten a kill by hitting an overpass. The fifth set was super emotional.”
The second-place Lions gave the third-place Knights their best shot, but the resilient Knights consistently mustered an answer. After the Lions took the first set 25-21, the Knights returned the favor, winning the second by the same score. After the Lions took the third set, 25-17, the Knights roared back, 25-22, in the fourth to tie the match at 2.
With the match knotted at two sets a piece, the Lions pulled ahead by four in the fifth and final set. “It was maybe point 11 when I hit the over pass and we were ahead by two, it was after Preslie had just gotten a couple kills and I had as well (this was my second in a row).”
After Rozman gave the Knights a two-point lead, Boswell wrapped her arms around Rozman. She was happy but also fatigued.
“It was definitely challenging keeping our energy up because we were all so tired,” Rozman said, “but we knew that if we won, we could possibly be second in our district behind Dripping Springs. So we were all super amped knowing what was at stake.”
The fifth set was the only time in the match that the Lions trailed. They mustered the will to erase the deficit and tie the match at 15. The teams were tied at 16. And 17. But after three ties extended the fifth set, the Lions strung together two points to win the set, 19-17, and the match, 3-2.
It was a loss. But to a player, the Knights said it was their best performance of the season thus far.
“We had the best energy,” Rozman said. “I think this was the best I’ve ever seen us play.”
“For sure, it was the best game we’ve played. [We] just [made] some small errors here and there, but when we were on we crushed it.”
Even head coach Amy Brodbeck offered the same assessment.
“The girls played outstanding. I was super proud of how they played. They were scrappy and smart.”
Rozman said the team wanted this match, and it showed in the hustle and urgency with which the team played. Liana Smoot landed in the bench area twice after leaping out of bounds to keep a ball in play, and she said that Wiley was simply everywhere … covering tips short and going deep to neutralize kill attempts and keep points alive. Wiley had a game high 41 digs, but she wasn’t alone. Three other Knights had double-digit digs: Boswell had 17, Sophia Henderson 13 and senior co-captain Claire Caudill 10.
On offense, Henderson racked up 42 assists. When she wasn’t setting up the next kill attempt, she was quick to dump the ball in the perfect spot to kill a Lion rally. Boswell led the team with 21 kills and a 29.2 percent kill percentage. Smoot added 12 kills at 26.1 percent.
The Lions brought out the best in these Knights.
“I thought we could beat them if we did our best, and we almost did,” Wiley said. “We just had too many errors and that’s what decided the game basically.”
The Lions consistently threw the first punch, winning the first and third sets and jumping out to a big lead in the fifth. They smartly served away from Wiley and forced other Knights to receive serve. Rozman said that good teams know to serve away from the other team’s libero because liberos are most likely to receive the serve expertly and set up a counter attack.
The Knights weathered that strategy, and Brodbeck also made other adjustments to get her team back in the match. At the beginning of the match, the Knight would send three blockers to the front of the net to set up a wall against a Lion kill shot. Seeing the triple wall, the Lions exploited a weak spot by tipping the ball over the wall for an easy point.
“We adjusted our defense because they kept tipping really short, and the ball kept dropping behind the block,” Rozman said. “We changed to a double block and the third front-row person would cover short.”
The Knights also made adjustments on offense to exploit holes in the Lion defense.
“We started hitting towards deep corners where their defense wasn’t,” Rozman said.
After the adjustments, the Knight beat the Lions in the fourth set, a performance that Wiley said was the team’s most quality set of the night.
“We had kills from Preslie and some aces that really put us ahead and gave us the momentum we needed to win the fourth set.”
Boswell had five aces in the match, and Caudill chipped in three while ace server Janael Copeland added two.
“We have some people that will come in specifically to serve and then come back out after we lose a point,” Wiley said. “Janael comes in for one of the middles to serve and after the other team gets the serve back that’s when she comes out, and I come back in. But other than that, usually a back-row player subs in for a front-row player once they reach the back row and they serve instead.”
The varsity’s tight loss was typical of the evening. The JV and the freshmen teams also pushed the Lions to a tiebreaker final set, and both squads also extended the game into extra points after the final set was tied at 24. Unfortunately for the home teams, both lost the decisive set, 26-24.
The matches had a playoff atmosphere or perhaps more accurately the atmosphere of a rivalry game. The intensity was surprising since it’s the first year that Lockhart and McCallum have been in the same district.
Despite the newness of the rivalry, the Lions have emerged as a team that Mac would very much like to beat. At the beginning of the year, the Knights were much more concerned about Tigers than Lions. The arrival of Dripping Springs in District 25-5A attracted much more attention than the arrival of Lockhart.
Perhaps that’s because the Lions are not in McCallum’s football district, but if their entry into the district was unheralded, their play on the volleyball court since has changed that. The Lions volleyball team has blazed through district play. The team’s only loss came against at first-place Dripping Springs on Sept. 21.
Senior co-captain Lindsey said earlier this season that she had two goals for the team this season: make the playoffs and give Dripping Springs a run for its money.
Two losses to Lockhart earlier this season captured the Knights’ attention. The volleyball program had Oct. 5 circled on its collective calendar since the team endured an ill-fated district road trip to Lockhart on Sept. 11. The Knights lost on the road that day, 3-1. It was the team’s first district loss, and it was doubly disappointing because the Lions had already beaten these Knights, 2-1, in a non-district tournament match at the Bastrop tournament on Aug. 17.
“We felt like we could’ve played so much better,” Rozman admitted. “We made it our goal to beat them at home because we know we have enough skill to beat them.”
The Knights came close to pulling out the win, but even in defeat they showed a will to win that shows how much this young varsity team has grown together.
Rozman is one of a team full of first-year varsity players. Only four players (Wiley, Caudill, Smoot and Henderson) played varsity last year.
“The team has meshed so well together, and I’ve made so many great bonds with my teammates,” Rozman said. “Playing on the varsity level has definitely made me a better player; playing more competitive teams has helped me grow as a player for sure. Especially since junior year is hard, I’ve had to learn a lot about time management balancing school and volleyball. Even though this year has been really hard, I make it one of my top priorities to have fun, and I always have fun playing volleyball.”
While the rest of the season promises to be fun, Wiley has goals in sight for her team. She wants to take a set off Dripping Spring when they travel to the Tigers’ den on Oct. 19, and she wants to win the team’s remaining matches without dropping a set.
They will get a chance to start that streak tonight when the team travels to Crockett to take on the Cougars.