Lady Cats chalk up pair of victories on first day of season

By BOBBY “BUTCH” BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 17, 2008 - It took the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats about a week to rack up two volleyball wins last year. They matched that total in their first night on Friday.

The Lady Cats beat both Mount Vernon and Chapel Hill 3-1 in matches at Wildcat Gym that showed both their potential and where they need improvement. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was a step forward, said head coach Rachel Curtis.

I think that we are a lot further along than last year, definitely. But, there are still a ton of things we need to work on,” she said. “It was good to see girls in different places - I moved girls around a lot tonight. Overall, they performed well, but there are things we need to work on, especially mentally. There were times when we beat ourselves.”

Serving was a positive turning point for the Lady Cats as well as a point of consternation for Curtis. The Lady Cats had 20 aces against Mount Vernon and 19 against Chapel Hill, including a whopping 12 for senior Brittani Crawford, who unveiled an energetic jump serve. But, they also had 16 bad serves in their first match and 12 more in the second.

Still, the Lady Cats prevailed over Mount Vernon 25-23, 17-25, 25-20 and 25-22. They beat Chapel Hill 25-17, 19-25, 25-21 and 25-17.

Against Mount Vernon, sophomore Kara Tomlinson led the team in kills with 12 to go with two assists and eight points. Senior Mackenzie Cross added eight kills and two blocks playing on an injured ankle, while Crawford, Katie Dodd, Krista McMahan and T’Kea Johnson had at least three kills each. Junior Maurie Lewis had 16 assists and Baleigh Butler contributed 13 assists and three kills.

It looked like the Lady Cats would start the season off on the wrong foot, falling behind 21-15 in the first game, but they rallied as Cross put down a kill to stop a four-point MV run, then Butler served three straight aces on her way to six consecutive points that put the Lady Cats ahead. Consecutive kills by Spenser Martin and Johnson ended the game.

The second game was problematic for the Lady Cats in both matches as they dropped the game after falling behind by nine points after a series of self-inflicted mistakes. In the third game, the Lady Cats broke a 17-17 tie on a kill by Crawford and then four straight service points from McMahan that included two aces.

The same thing happened in the fourth and final game. The score was tied at 17-all when Butler set up Cross for a kill. Spikes by Johnson and two straight from Tomlinson ended the game.

Against Chapel Hill, Tomlinson again led the team in kills with seven while Butler and Cross added six each. But, the real story was Crawford’s jump serve. She served 10 straight points early in Game 1 as Sulphur Springs took an 11-1 lead.

�Brittani Crawford, we just put that serve in two days ago,� Curtis said. �What happens is when she hits a couple of those, it intimidates the other team. Some of those weren�t hard, but the other team was already intimidated.

�A couple of other girls are going to work on that this week, and I think it will really help our team.�

Lewis also had a long string of serves in Game 3, starting the run with an ace and finishing with 10 straight points as Sulphur Springs rallied from a 14-8 hole to take a 19-14 advantage. A back row spike by Crawford closed out the game.

Curtis said one of the things she was most encouraged by was the way the Lady Cats overcame deficits late in several games to pull out victories.

�Part of my goal this year is to let them believe that they can be good because they are good,� Curtis explained. �Sometimes, they hold themselves back for whatever reason. We working on that. If I can get them to believe that, there�s no stopping us because we have the talent.�

The Lady Cats return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Clarksville. Games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. with the freshmen, followed by JV and varsity.

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