MCKINNEY – The Lady Eagles returned home after notching a 6th place finish at the annual John Turner Classic in Pearland over the weekend. The finish earned them some attention from the Texas Association of Volleyball Coaches, who has Prosper listed as the second-ranked 5A team in the state out of the top twenty.
Records and rankings aside, the team looked to continue their early-season success, traveling to McKinney High school to take on the Lionettes.
The varsity squad stepped on the court and immediately took control of the match, with the opening point awarded to Prosper off a kill by senior Haley Killinger. However, McKinney quickly fired back with two back-to-back points. The score remained relatively even until McKinney’s Sophia Salak rotated into serving position. Salak’s strong serve put Prosper down ten points before a blocked ball ricocheted out of bounds to provide some relief for the Lady Eagles. Prosper tried to stage a comeback late in the set, but poor passing and an inability to run the offense ultimately allowed McKinney to take the first set 17-25.
“We weren’t passing very well at all,” said head coach Erin Kauffman about the first set. “I think we got very overwhelmed when we were down big time… I just told them to slow it down… and take it one game at time.”
Set two was a completely different match-up. Prosper jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, including a second-ball dump by junior setter Madi Whitmire and a big block by Whitmire and senior Chloe Hancock. McKinney did rally back to make the game close again, but as the set progressed, Prosper continued to build offensive momentum. Killinger had several big hits out of the back row, and fellow senior hitter Taryn Weber was nearly unstoppable with her right-side attack. In addition, defensive specialist Kylie Mote served seven consecutive times to help her team to a 12-2 run. Prosper would go on to tie the match with a 25-17 win in set two.
The longest set of the game began with a huge 10-2 run for the Lady Eagles. In the spur of a few moments, Prosper jumped out to an explosive start, with big hits coming from Hancock out of the middle and Killinger out wide. Defensively, defensive specialists Macy Walterschied and Kylie Mote added several crucial digs to keep their team ahead. However, McKinney responded viciously as Salak again returned to serve. She brought the Lionettes within two points of Prosper, until a critical timeout called by Kauffman ended her serving series. Prosper looked as though they would seal the set when a kill by freshman Samantha Jacobs brought the score to 23-19 in favor of the green. Jacobs has found her way into a starting role on the varsity, and as the only freshman on the team, she has had to quickly adjust to the fast-paced game.
“It’s exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time because I don’t really want to make any mistakes, but at the same time everyone is really nice and welcoming.” Jacobs said about being on varsity. “I just try to stay focused and whenever I play it’s kind of helpful as everybody else picks me up whenever I make mistakes.”
Despite Jacobs’ strong showing on the outside, McKinney’s resiliency was unyielding. The Lionettes fought to level the score at 25-25. The Lady Eagles fired back, with Killinger leading the charge in the front. She gave her team the lead with a big overset slammed into the back-left corner of the court, giving Prosper the momentum to take the set 28-26. Jacobs attributes the long-winded set win to communication among her team.
“Communication is a key part [during these games],” said the freshman. “We don’t really get angry at each other, we try to pick each other up and we’re really encouraging to each other.”
It was McKinney who hopped out to a quick lead in the fourth and final set. The Lady Eagles looked as if they reverted back to the first set, as disorganized communication seemed to hinder their offense. It was Jacobs who stepped up and brought Prosper back into the match, as the freshman ripped a ball down cross-court. Both teams jockeyed for the lead until junior Morgan Monroe entered the match. Her ace and strong defensive play gave her team the advantage, and while the Lionettes trailed closely throughout the set, Killinger ultimately put the set away with her game-ending kill. The final score of set four was 25-22, giving Prosper the 3-1 match victory. Kauffman said while the game didn’t start the way she wanted, it did reveal the grit of her team in close situations.
“This showed the tenacity and the perseverance of my team,” Kauffman said. “They did a good job of closing it out, and they’re not scared to play under pressure.”