SETTING ON THE BRINK

in Volleyball

Still searching for their first volleyball win of the season, Class 1A Meridian Lady Jackets continue to show improvement preparing for district play

MERIDIAN – Sometimes, winning really isn’t everything. And for the recently-restored Class 1A Meridian Lady Jacket volleyball program, victories have proven to be hard to come by. But Lady Jacket first-year head coach Lyndsie Schur knows her team remains on the right track. Still in search for that elusive first victory, Meridian continues to improve as they prepare to open district competition in two weeks.

Playing only one match last week, the Lady Jackets fell in straight sets, 25-8, 25-14, 25-12, to the Class 3A Whitney Wildcats Aug. 30 in Yellowjacket Gymnasium. Then on the road Tuesday night, Meridian dropped a hard-fought heartbreaker in straight sets at Marlin, 25-23, 25-22, 25-17. Canyon Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with six service aces and three kills, while Catherine Lunsford issued a team-high eight assists and Hope Cabrera contributed three kills.

“I’m pleased with how we played last night with the exception of serving,” Schur said. “There really isn’t much I would critique other than our serves. We missed 17 serves over all and only got beat by 12. It’s hard to win games when you’re giving away that many points. The girls know that and are already working on fixing that.”

Against Whitney, Journey Stauffer delivered a team-high five service aces, Lunsford led the Lady Jackets with two kills along with six assists and one dig, while Canyon Stauffer dished out 12 assists, followed by Mariana Paniagua with eight.

“Although the score doesn’t show it, we got better from the game against Whitney,” Schur said after the Whitney game. “Coach Cleere has done a great job with her team, and I was proud of my girls for how they played them last night. I am really big on passing and have stressed the importance of our passes out of serve receive. Even with Whitney being very aggressive servers, we passed the ball very well.”

Now, the Lady Jackets (0-15) turn their attention to Homecoming week, when they will be returning home to host the Lingleville Lady Cardinals at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Then Meridian wraps up its non-district schedule with one more tune-up on the road against the Riesel Lady Indians next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

“We will be ready to bounce back again Lingleville on Friday,” Schur said. “The girls are starting to gel very well and play extremely hard points throughout the entire match. I truly think we will be a force to be reckoned with during district play.”

Meridian opens District 18-1A competition at Kopperl Sept. 23 and will also battle Blum, Covington and Morgan for two playoff berths

“We have played Kopperl this year in a tournament, and that was an extremely tight match,” Schur said. “I expect that first district ballgame to be a huge one for us. Coach McPherson at Blum always does a great job with her teams, and they are expected to be the top dog that everyone is fighting with for that first seed. We haven’t seen Covington or Morgan this season, but I expect that Coach Carter at Covington and Coach Howe at Morgan will have their teams ready to compete as well. 

“I truly believe that we have a really good shot at being the second seed out of our district. It isn’t going to be an easy feat, but my girls haven’t let being the underdog keep them from competing.”

Not shying away from strong competition, the Lady Jackets dropped six straight matches at the Valley Mills Tournament last weekend despite coming so very close.

In opening the tournament Aug. 25, the Lady Jackets downed Gholson, 25-19, to win the first set, but dropped the next two, 25-17, 25-18. Then after losing a hard fought 25-19, 25-21 decision to Aquilla, Meridian quickly fell to Wortham, 25-9, 25-9. Despite suffering two convincing losses to host Valley Mills, 25-8, 25-8, and Aquilla, 25-9, 25-13, on Saturday, the Lady Jackets bounced back for a fight to the finish with Kopperl, finally succumbing to the Lady Eagles, 25-23, 12-25, 30-28, to close out the tournament.

“We went 0-6 this weekend and did some very good things,” said Schur, who inherited a young team entering its third season since rebooting the program. “Although things didn’t go the way we wanted on the scoreboard, we played some very hard points, and I saw some really good things.”

Overall in the tournament, Canyon Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with 11 kills and 17 assists, followed by Evelyn Dirkse with 11 kills and five aces, as well as Cabrera and Lundsford with eight each. Lundsford added a team-high 27 assists, and Dirkse came up with a team-high four blocks.

“We struggled some early Saturday morning, but we came back to battle Kopperl in a hard fought match,” Schur said. “We forced them to a third set and didn’t go down without a fight. One thing I am extremely proud of my girls for is their “never give up” attitude. That attitude is going to help us continue to be better every day.”

Before heading to the Valley Mills Tournament, the Lady Jackets lost to Oglesby in a hard-fought, five-set match, 23-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-27, 15-10, Oct. 19 at Yellowjacket Gymnasium. Cabrera led Meridian with four kills and an ace, Dirkse contributed three blocks and three kills, Stauffer added three kills and an ace, while Abby Edwards served up two aces.

“I am very proud of how the girls are getting better every day,” Schur said. “I have stressed to them that we need to focus on the little things and everything else will fall into place. They have bought in to that, and it shows in how hard they are working day in and day out. Last Friday was a testament to the fight that our kids have in them. Although we didn’t get the win, we didn’t make it easy by any means.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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