THE ROAD TO WINNING

in Volleyball

Snapping a seven-match losing streak, the Class 1A Meridian Lady Jackets defeat Aquilla, look to build momentum on the road against Lingleville Friday

With two more weeks to get ready for District 18-1A volleyball competition, the Meridian Lady Jackets were looking to snap a seven-match losing streak and build some momentum for the stretch run. Coming off a resounding three-set loss to the Class 3A Whitney Lady Wildcats, 25-13, 25-11, 25-13, last Tuesday, the Lady Jackets used an open date last Friday to refocus on some fundamentals.

After spending the last two weeks facing challenges against Class 4A, 3A and 2A opponents, the Lady Jackets turn their fortunes around with a hard-fought but convincing four-set victory over Aquilla, 25-19, 22-25, 25-18, 25-21, Tuesday night at Yellowjacket Gymnasium.

“I am very proud of the girls for coming out strong in tonight’s match,” Meridian volleyball head coach Lyndsie Schur said. “We have really been focusing on creating our own energy early in the game, and I felt that we did a great job of that tonight. I know that may sound so silly, but when our energy is up, we play extremely well.”

In the win against Aquilla, junior Journey Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with five kills, followed by senior Canyon Stauffer with three kills, four service aces, six assists and five digs, as well as junior Mariana Paniagua with three kills and five assists. Senior Eve Dirkse smashed four service aces, while junior Mackenzie Borhofen led Meridian with six digs.

“The girls really did a great job of picking each other up in this game, too,” Schur said. “Aquilla did a good job of trying to catch us out of position at times. When that would happen, it changed up our attack plan on the offensive side. But I really saw the girls stepping up to help their teammates out. Overall, I am extremely proud of our team win tonight.”

Hoping to build some momentum coming off the win over Aquilla, the Lady Jackets (4-11) will travel to Lingleville to take on the Lady Cardinals at 6 p.m. Friday before returning home to host Valor Prep at 6 p.m. next Tuesday. Following two more non-district matches, Meridian opens District 18-1A competition at home against Kopperl at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 29.

Against Whitney last week, Canyon Stauffer and senior Eve Dirkse led the Lady Jackets with three kills each, while Journey Stauffer came up with a team-high 10 digs. Dirkse delivered two service aces, Canyon Stauffer contributed nine digs, while Paniagua dished out a team-high three assists.

“We did some very good things, and we saw some things that we need to work on,” Schur said. “Whitney did a very good job of blocking our hitters, and that is something that we haven’t seen before.

“We will see teams in our district that do a good job blocking, so we know what we need to work on. We passed exceptionally well against a very aggressive serving team. I was very proud of how our girls played.”

After winning a dramatic five-set victory over Oglesby on the road Aug. 18, the Lady Jackets struggled, beginning with a road trip to Evant where Meridian lost to the Lady Elks in straight sets, 25-9, 25-12, 25-22, Aug. 22.

Journey Stauffer led Meridian with five kills while coming up with nine digs, Paniagua smashed three kills and dished out five assists, and Canyon Stauffer came up with a team-high 12 digs.

“We really struggled to get going against Evant,” Schur said. “Our girls did some really good things, but Evant did a great job defending it too. We will work hard to regroup and get back on track.”

Playing in the highly-competitive Rio Vista Tournament hosted by the Class 2A Lady Eagles Aug. 24 and 26, the Lady Jackets battled tough against larger schools, but could not get over the hump for a win.

Meridian opened the tournament with straight set loses to Class 4A Venus, 25-14, 25-17, Class 3A Maypearl, 25-17, 25-20, and Class 3A Blooming Grove, 25-21, 26-24. Then the Lady Jackets closed out the tournament on by dropping a straight set match to Class 3A Keene, 25-14, 25-15, and losing a hard-fought, three-set match to Class 4A Fort Worth Eastern Hills, 25-17, 23-25, 25-19.

“I knew going into this tournament that this would be a tough one,” Schur said. “But my goal for the girls was to get better every game. We saw some really tough opponents and competed very well with them.  We went up against schools that are 3A and above, but you would have never known that they were that much bigger than we were.

Overall in the tournament, Canyon Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with 15 kills, followed by Journey Stauffer with 10. Senior Hope Cabrera, Canyon Stauffer and Journey Stauffer led Meridian with six service aces each, Paniagua and Canyon Stauffer delivered a team-high 15 sets, and Journey Stauffer topped the Lady Jackets with 20 digs.

“I am very proud of how we performed this weekend. We showed those teams that we aren’t someone to write off. We made them earn their wins.”

Trying to find the right winning combination, the Lady Jackets overcame losing the first two games of the match to knocked off Oglesby in a dramatic five-set battle on the road, 16-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-9.

” I am very proud to see the grit and mental toughness that the girls displayed against,” Schur said. “We started the third set being down by two. And when you’re in that situation, it’s hard to come out victorious over the whole match.”

Led by Canyon Stauffer with seven kills, 13 assists and six service aces, the Lady Jackets overcame a huge deficit for the win. Dirske smashed a team-high eight service aces, Journey Stauffer contributed five kills and four aces, Cabrera provided five kills, while Paniagua delivered 11 assists.

“We started out really slow and not really on the same page as one another in the first and second sets. But in the third, fourth and fifth sets, we really honed in on what our goal was and what we needed to do to accomplish that goal.”

After losing back-to-back matches to close out the Lady Jacket Tournament Aug. 10-12, Meridian lost to Penelope in another hard-fought, back-and-forth five-set clash,25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12, at home.

“We played some very good points in this match,” Schur said. “Just as I’ve always said, we will be the hardest working team every time we step on the court. My girls know that’s an expectation of them and they hold themselves and others to that standard.”

Canyon Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with eight kills while providing eight assists, followed by Journey Stauffer with seven kills and Dirkse with six. Paniagua led Meridian with 16 assists. Despite delivering 15 service aces led by Journey Stauffer with five, the Lady Jackets probably cost themselves the match with 20 service errors.

“Unfortunately, we hurt ourselves and ultimately beat ourselves by missing 20 serves,” Schur said. “I have stressed the importance of serving the last couple of games. And tonight, was an eye opener of how important it is. We missed 20 serves and only got beat by seven total points. Like I told the girls after the game, it’s hard to win ball games when you’re giving away almost a full set.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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