DOUBLE TROUBLE

in Volleyball

Surpassing 2020 wins before starting the second round of District 11-2A play, Meridian Lady Jackets outlasts Bluff Dale in five-set thriller

One is never enough. And after getting their first taste of victory in District 11-2A volleyball competition last week, the Meridian Lady Jackets wanted more. And that’s exactly what they got.

Hoping to snap a two-match losing streak, the Lady Jackets  hit the road Tuesday to wrap up the first round of district play at Bluff Dale and walked away with a thrilling five-set win, outlasting the Lady Bobcats, 25-7, 21-25, 20-25, 25-12, 16-14.

“We are thrilled to have earned another district win,” Meridian volleyball first-year head coach Lauren Cartwright said. “When the girls get into their rhythm, it is incredible to be a part of. They are learning to read their opponents moves, and accordingly, adjust our coverage. They are also learning how to overcome obstacles and truly work as a team.

Meridian will open the second round of district at home against the Hamilton Lady Bulldogs at 11 a.m. Saturday before enjoying an open date next Tuesday.

“Our focus right now is consistency and tenacity. We still have a ways to go in means of consistency but I couldn’t be prouder of how far we have come. At this midway point in the district season, we have specific areas we are working on to help us move up in our district ranking this second half.”

Coming off a thrilling district victory over Three Way Sept. 18, Meridian (2-4 in district, 5-13 overall) dropped back-to-back decisions to Hico and Tolar, falling to the Lady Rattlers in straight sets, 25-7, 25-21, 25-12, last Saturday at Yellowjacket Gymnasium.

“The girls played a great second set on Saturday,” Cartwright said. “I’m incredibly proud of the girls’ tenacity in that set. They rose to the challenge and were able to compete with a well established program.

“As for the other sets, consistency is hard to come by with a young program. Both repetition and time are necessary to develop consistency. I’m confident over time our program will be able to increase our consistency in higher level play. We are looking forward to our matchup in Bluff Dale tonight.”

Aiming to build on their victory over Bluff Dale, the Lady Jackets traveled to Hico Sept. 21 and the Lady Tigers swept past Meridian, 25-17, 25-14. 25-8, as senior Mackenzie Lane led in kills, while senior America Ramirez set the pace in digs, blocks and serving.

“I was proud of the way we played in the first set,” Cartwright said. “The girls did a great job playing out every volley. We look forward to our match up with Tolar. They have an exemplary program and we are preparing accordingly.”

After opening District 11-2A competition with back-to-back lopsided losses, the young and inexperienced Meridian Lady Jacket volleyball program showed some grit in posting only its second district win in more than 40 years.

Despite losing the opening set convincingly, the Lady Jackets battled back to prevail in a hard-fought and dramatic five-set victory over the Three Way Lady Indians, 13-25, 25-22, 18-25, 25-20, 15-7, Sept. 18.

“The girls showed a tremendous amount of determination and mental endurance on Saturday,” Meridian volleyball’s first-year head coach Lauren Cartwright said. “After a five-set match, we were able to walk away with the win. Our team came together to make some smart plays and work around Three-Way’s defensive coverage.”

Last season, the Lady Jackets won their first district match in 41 years in a hard-fought and thrilling 25-23, 25-15, 20-25, 22-25, 15-13 victory over Three Way to advanced to the Class 2A postseason to take on top-ranked Crawford in a Bi-District playoff matchup.

But as they wrap up the first round district play in 2021 this week, the Lady Jackets will be looking for more this season. And by posting their first district win, the Meridian volleyball program has already surpassed the achievements of last season.

Although the Lady Jackets own a long history of playing volleyball, the program was initially dropped following the 1973-74 school year. Meridian reinstated volleyball for the 1978-79 school year, but promptly dropped it again the following season.

“The volleyball program motto this year is ‘We Before Me,’” Cartwright said. “Our student athletes are doing an exemplary job of living that out.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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