September 3, 2010 10:07:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School''s volleyball team had one hiccup in its 3-1 win against Caledonia in Thursday''s rematch -- an all too familiar one.
After cruising to a commanding 2-0 lead, the Lady Jackets stumbled in a third-set loss that nixed a straight-sets win, but more importantly drew critical analysis from their head coach.
Starkville coach Lauren Love was happy to see her team extend its home unbeaten streak to five games, but bemoaned a lapse in focus and poor court organization in the third set. Starkville nearly lost the first set after Caledonia (10-7) went on a 9-0 tear to tie the set at 20
The Lady Jackets are 13-5, but haven''t started district play and can''t afford to carry bad habits into the final quarter of the season.
Easing up and playing tentative won''t help the team return to the playoffs, Love said.
"Caledonia had great coverage and defense and they were serving to win," Love said of the third set. "We started playing not to lose and one thing I''m trying to instill in the girls is that we need to play to win. Our body language was very negative on the court. We weren''t communicating or taking care of the things we can control. We had entirely too many unforced errors."
And much like the first meeting between the two teams, Starkville refocused, started communicating and earned the win.
"I''m proud of the way we were able to shake it off, not give away free ball after free ball and get back to playing our style of volleyball," Love said. "We''ll practice on that next week with just one game to play. But it is something they''ve got to learn and be mindful of. We can''t dwell on negatives and have it cost us a set."
Wheeler Richardson had seven aces to raise her state-leading total to 73. She also had team highs of 17 digs and six kills.
Elizabeth Scott, Rebecca Myles and McKay Richardson each tallied five kills.
Caledonia coach Samantha Brooks believed fatigue caught up with her team after an energetic third set in which it rang up 10 kills. Channeling that same efficiency proved tough in the fourth set, though Brooks didn''t think the team''s performance dropped because of mistakes.
"Our girls were getting tired mentally and physically," Brooks said. "But I told them that I feel like, fundamentally, overall and in most areas, we have a better team. We have more height, we make good passes and we serve well. We had more kills today than we''ve had in several games put together and that says a lot. I feel like, overall, we were on but this is one of the best team''s we''ve played in a while."
Right-side hitter Cara Hopper had a game-high eight kills, while Blaire Ruth, Ashley Dodson and Macy Hicks each had six. Elisha Collins had five. Ruth also had four aces.
Heading into Tuesday''s district home match against West Lowndes, Brooks was happy to have play solid competition before defending its League 1, District 1 lead.
"I think we''re pretty evenly matched with them and these are the teams we enjoy playing because they''re not boring," Brooks said. "They actually give us something that makes us work. This game was good practice for us, and I''m proud of our overall play."
Starkville was scheduled to host South Panola on Tuesday, but South Panola disbanded the program and dropped League 3, Division 2 to just three teams -- Starkville, Tupelo and Columbus.