BELTON — Volleyball coach Krystal Yerigan knows her Belton Lady Tigers may well make another run for the Class 6A playoffs, and she believes they have the potential to compete for a district title.
Following Belton’s 25-19, 25-20, 25-19 season-opening loss to the Georgetown East View Patriots on Tuesday night, the one thing of which she’s certain is there’s a lot of work to be done.
“It’s definitely not what I expected based on our practices,” Yerigan said. “They were obviously super-excited just to be able to play again, so I’m disappointed we didn’t produce better.”
The start of the volleyball season for Class 5A and 6A teams was pushed back a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the Lady Tigers had long-awaited Tuesday’s match — and the rust showed.
Twelve hitting errors in the opening set, eight in the second set along with a couple of violations for touching the net, and eight errors in the third were problematic for Belton all night.
Despite the plethora of miscues, each set was close. East View, also playing its first match, also struggled with errors at times but managed just enough separation in each game to pull away.
With the first set tied at 15, three Belton hitting errors combined with a kill and a block by the Patriots’ Gavi Elswick highlighted their 6-1 run from which the Lady Tigers couldn’t recover.
The second-set run came much earlier, with Belton up 6-5. East View scored on two kills by M’Kenzee Nkansah — who had a team-high 11 kills, two aces and two blocks — and one by Makenna Baylor along with a Lady Tigers hitting error to take a 9-6 lead, and was forced to try to play catch-up the rest of the way.
“We need to be in a position where we don’t allow things to snowball,” Yerigan said. “That’s what we did tonight. We didn’t stop, re-evaluate and move on. It’s almost like we stayed in our own heads too long.”
The third set played out much like the previous two, with the Patriots going on a 9-1 run to flip the Lady Tigers’ 11-9 lead into East View’s 20-13 advantage on the way to closing out the match.
Yerigan felt that if her team had been able to overcome that final run, it would have had a legitimate shot at winning the match.
“That’s the most important thing from a coaching staff perspective. We never doubted them,” she said. “We never doubted they would be able to pull it out, especially with their physical conditioning. It’s not ideal to be in that situation, but we knew we can handle it if we get in a fifth-set situation. We just didn’t pull to get there tonight, and that’s unfortunate because I know we can do better than what we showed.”
Emily Revis led Belton with five kills, and Mykaela Johnston added four.
Though the Lady Tigers have five seniors — including Sydney Sell and Isabel Holguin, who had three kills each — and other players with varsity experience, they are still learning how to replace some key members from last season’s team that went 20-23 overall and 12-4 in district.
Despite Tuesday’s opening loss, Yerigan said she feels good about what she saw from the group.
“We have a wonderful group of girls,” she said. “They understand and seem to know what they need to fix. It’s time to do it and just move on. We have another opportunity for a redo on Friday night and have another great opponent in (Round Rock) Stony Point. It’s important for us to take charge.”