Two vastly improved volleyball teams waged a hard-hitting battle on Tuesday at Wagstaff Gymnasium to open conference play. Trinity Valley is a second-year program, while Tyler Junior College is revamped under second-year coach Ronda Shirley.
The Apache Ladies looked to be a little more seasoned in every department in winning a hard-earned sweep, 25-20, 25-17, 25-15, improving to a perfect 10-0 on the season.
“I felt like we came out a little bit flat,” Shirley said. “I didn’t feel like there was that energy there that we’ve had in some other games, and especially for conference I expected us to come out a little stronger.
“I didn’t feel like our defensive game was here tonight, we didn’t dig as many balls as we can. Our blocking showed up here and there, but I don’t think we showed that dominance that we can sometimes.”
Charae Caldwell, a freshman from Mansfield, led TJC with 12 kills and did her best work with seven winners in Game 1.
The home team needed every one of Caldwell’s kills to fight off the Lady Cardinals (5-6) in the opening set. TVCC earned a sideout to pull within 22-20 before Serbian freshman Ivana Bulajic hit a drop-shot winner between three players. Caldwell then clinched the game with back-to-back kills.
The Lady Cardinals had an early lead in Game 2 before TJC won four straight on winners by Caldwell, Jacqueline Santos, Anuhea Keanini and Santos again to make it 10-6. The Apache Ladies maintained the pressure to go up 19-11 and then withstood a mini-run by TVCC.
TVCC coach Natosha Spain said her team did not compete well in Game 3, which the Apache Ladies controlled from the outset. TJC won 15 of the first 20 points and recorded seven kills in the process.
“We’re a lot quicker and a lot more athletic,” said Spain, comparing her team to last year. “We’ve still got a lot to work on blocking-wise, but we are improving a lot every day.
“Our blocking killed us. We’re quick and we didn’t run our quick offense. We slowed down our pace, which we didn’t need to do. We stayed back on our heels but blocking was our big thing.”
Paulla Pinheiro (Brazil) and Emilee Crawford (Saginaw) had eight kills apiece in the loss, and Hallsville’s Brianna Young collected three blocks. Gabri Ella Wilson, a freshman from John Tyler, contributed two kills and one block.
Backing up Caldwell in the win were Bulajic (nine kills, four blocks), Alysha Rogers (seven kills, one block) and Santos (five kills, five blocks).