Temple had its share of leads and clawed back at times when it didn’t, but Killeen Ellison had the final say in the most meaningful moments of Tuesday night’s District 12-6A match at Wildcat Gym.
The visiting Lady Eagles scored 12 of the final 19 points in the first set, rallied from a seven-point deficit in the second and held off a late Tem-Cats charge in the third for a 25-19, 25-20, 25-22 victory.
Adelia Puni had a match-high 10 kills for Ellison (12-11), which improved to 2-0 in league play. Lyric Biggiers landed seven kills and Ali Mack and Chloe Prentiss each chipped in six for the Tem-Cats (9-18), who’ve dropped three in a row, including their first two district contests.
“I think every team in our district is going to challenge us a lot with the serve. This is something I’ve been saying since I got hired, it’s a serve and pass game and we need to pass every ball to the best of our ability. We’re still not doing that and we’re not giving our hitters an option to go up and put the ball down,” Temple first-year head coach Alyssa Cataldo said. “I think once it clicks that everybody needs to do their job and we play in system, we’ll be fine.”
Sophia Brea added 21 assists, five digs and two aces, and Amaya Benekin-Mills and Prentiss shared the team high in digs with 11 for Temple.
The Lady Eagles managed their way through what head coach Sarah Stolley called an off night by serving seven aces to Temple’s three and recording four blocks for points to the Tem-Cats’ one.
Ellison’s attack also was supplemented by Adaizah Millett’s nine kills, seven from Kira Bass and five from Iyahna Hibbler. Chanelle Cancel, Tiana St. Cyr and Bell Iosefo combined for 30 assists.
“We were just a little off tonight and a little slower than we’ve been playing, and we need to get back to it and figure out why,” Stolley said. “Credit to Temple. They hustled for every ball.”
With a 13-12 lead in the opening set, Ellison scored seven of the next nine to increase the advantage to 20-14. Biggiers’ kill and a pair of Lady Eagles errors whittled an eight-point cushion to five, 24-19, but Ariana Moore’s kill closed the set.
Buoyed by kills from Prentiss, Biggiers and Teareia Edwards, Temple raced to an 11-4 lead in the second before Stolley, much to her chagrin, took a timeout.
“I really hate calling timeouts for serve-receive. That’s exhausting. But, sometimes, the kids need a break and I do, too, and that’s what you do,” Stolley said. “Just trying to control the controllable on our side of the net and getting back to being good teammates and communicating effectively. I’m glad they responded positively.”
Out of the break, Ellison went on a 7-0 run to tie it. Two Biggiers kills, a Mack block and an attack error by Ellison pushed Temple ahead 16-12. The Lady Eagles’ subsequent 4-0 burst knotted the set again, and it also was deadlocked at 17 and 20 before Ellison won the last five points for a 2-0 match lead.
The Lady Eagles were out front for the majority of Game 3 but never by more than six, 20-14, and Temple had chances to extend the match by getting within 22-21 and 24-22. The Tem-Cats, though, couldn’t get over the hump.
“This team is very young volleyball IQ-wise so (it’s about) getting them to understand that it’s about making every play and not taking a play off,” Cataldo said. “We can’t get caught taking plays off.”