SALTILLO – Both teams had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Saltillo Lady Tigers were able to stay alive.
Saltillo put the Lafayette Lady Commodore’s playoff chances on life support after their 3-1 (23-25, 30-28, 25-17, 25-17) victory in ‘The Den’ Tuesday night at the Saltillo Gym.
Lafayette (7-5 overall, 1-3 in Division 1-5A) looked superior in the first meeting between the two squads inside the LHS Gym, but in the second meeting with Saltillo (11-5, 1-3) in their own gym, it was the Lady Tigers jumped out to big leads early and often, but in three of those sets, those leads evaporated.
In the first set, Saltillo led nearly the entire set establishing a lead as big as eight at 19-11, but Lafayette was able to counter with a 10-2 run and tie it up at 21-21. The Lady ‘Dores completed the comeback taking the first set 25-23.
Set two went nearly the same way as the first set with Saltillo steadily increasing their lead to seven at 20-13, but like the last set Lafayette responded with a 10-3 run and tied the set up at 23-23 with the Lady ‘Dores poised to take a 2-0 lead in the match, but after 12 competitive points and each team with three set points, it was Saltillo who finally took advantage and won the second set 30-28.
In the third set, Saltillo again put together an eight point advantage at 16-8 and this time did not allow Lafayette to make a comeback as they cruised to a 25-17 win to take a 2-1 lead in the match. The fourth set saw Saltillo take an 11-6 advantage early before Lafayette countered with a 9-1 run and took a 15-12 lead in the fourth set, but more errors and miscommunication ended up being the Lady ‘Dores downfall as Saltillo went on a 13-2 run to take the set and the match.
For three of the four sets, Saltillo blew leads of eight, seven, and five points to Lafayette. While the Lady ‘Dores were only able to take one of those sets, Saltillo coach Lee Buse said it was his player’s ability to stay even-keeled that got them through the other sets and allowed them to get their first-ever division win as a program.
“We preached to our kids, we try not to get too high or too low,” Buse said. “I think you’ve got to stay level-headed at the high school level and tonight we probably did that better than anything as far as keeping our composure and mentally staying sharp.”
Whether it was service errors, miscommunication, or hitting errors, Lafayette coach Kelsie Poole knows they have to figure it out soon or what is left of their postseason hopes will be gone. Lafayette out-killed Saltillo 46-39 and out-blocked Saltillo 14-7 and were equal in digs 71-71, but it was errors and communication miscues that did the Lady ‘Dores in where Saltillo scored 53 points on Lafayette’s errors or miscommunication where Lafayette only scored 33 points on Saltillo errors or miscues.
“We never figured it out,” Poole said regarding Lafayette’s communication during the match. “We’ve got a lot of work to do figuring out who we are as a team, what team’s going to show up.”
Bri Huckaby lead all players with a match-high 17 kills and a team-high 19 digs for Saltillo. Caroline Hamm added 10 kills offensively while adding five digs and four blocks defensively. Iva Grace Presley and Shelby Payne each had 14 digs to aid the Lady Tigers defensively.
Lafayette was led by Kailey Gooch with a team-high 16 kills and a match-high six blocks. Brennice Kennedy added 13 kills offensively and added six digs. Caitlyn Rhea had a match-high 25 digs to lead the Lady ‘Dores defensively. Grace Foster and Deundria Shaw each had 10 digs to aid Lafayette defensively.
Lafayette will host Center Hill at home Thursday night in a varsity-only match starting at 5 p.m. The Lady ‘Dores must win this match to stay alive for the playoffs or they will be eliminated from playoff contention.