CAPTION: The Burnet Lady Dawgs are enjoying the 2023 season and have put themselves in position to win a share of the District 24-4A crown. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
The Burnet High School volleyball team defeated Marble Falls 25-11, 25-21, 25-10 Oct. 17.
The Lady Dawgs (24-11, 7-1) now turn their attention to Georgetown Gateway in a crucial contest for the District 24-4A title. If Burnet wins, it splits the season series and has a shot at a co-district championship with the Gators. If Gateway wins, it captures the district championship outright. The match is at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at The Doghouse. The subvarsities follow.
Meanwhile, the loss to Burnet doesn’t eliminate the Lady Mustangs from the postseason. It simply means Marble Falls must focus on winning the next two matches to force a play-in contest with Lago Vista for fourth place. The first is a road trip to Lago Vista at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, before welcoming Lampasas at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, to Max Copeland Gym.
“Friday is the match that is the most important to our season,” head coach Kait Goertz said, noting that if the Lady Vikings win, they will have swept the season series and capture fourth place outright.
The Burnet and Marble Falls match began with back-to-back kills and directional tips by the Lady Dawgs for a 5-0 lead that forced the Lady Mustangs into a timeout.
Burnet showed it has much more than seniors MaeSyn Gay and Zaria Solis, exemplifying an ability to spike the ball from different parts of the court and the athleticism to sneak peaks at where the defense is lined up to put the ball in the open hole. That helped Burnet maintain at least a seven-point lead throughout the opening set where juniors Lauren Howton and Cydney Robison helped establish a strong offensive presence. Gay and Solis led the defensive effort by controlling the net with blocks or forcing Marble Falls to hit out to avoid the blocks.
Marble Falls senior Alexis Dalton scored the first point of the second set where both teams split the first four points. Then Burnet won seven of the next 10 points for a 9-4 lead highlighted by a Gay directional tip. The gap widened thanks to directional tips and kills by junior outside hitter Laney Huffman, Howton and their teammates for a 21-10 advantage.
And though the Lady Mustangs had a 7-1 run, the Lady Dawgs responded by picking up their defensive intensity for the win.
The final set was much like the first. Solis began the game with a kill and Marble Falls senior Sadie Harris responded with one of her own. But three consecutive aces by Burnet sophomore setter Payton Smith gave her squad a 6-1 lead. And though Marble Falls cut the deficit to 3-6 on an ace by Dalton, the Lady Mustangs couldn’t get any closer as the front row for both teams showed their power. Gaye, Harris and Marble Falls junior middle blocker Kylie Roberts ended rallies with tremendous kills.
Burnet head coach Crystal Shipley pointed out two portions of the match where the Lady Dawgs can be better.
“Confidence is the only thing sometimes,” she said. “Sometimes we let up. Every one of my rotations has to be great. We’re not scoring the balls we need to. Once you play all your players, your rotation is set.”
She noted that in her sport, coaches can’t call a timeout to make a lineup change or speed up or slow down momentum based on the clock. Once coaches use up their subs, the line-ups are locked in. Therefore, it’s imperative, she added, that the Lady Dawgs continue to play at a high level and each one performs her role to her very best during every single point.
In short, she said, coaches call it finishing – finishing the play, the rotation, the set and match. And when one rotation isn’t performing at the levels the others are, opponents can come from behind and gain confidence because they’re closing the gap. After all in volleyball, there’s a point at stake every time the ball is served.
“Everybody who plays and gets in has to finish,” Shipley said.
Marble Falls head coach Kait Goertz saw much of the same from her players, noting unforced errors plagued the Lady Mustangs.
“Burnet has great hitters,” she said. “And our miscommunication allowed for those plays to happen. They know their game plan, and they were more efficient with it.”
Marble Falls entered this match after losing to Gateway in four sets Oct. 13 and to Jarrell in three sets Oct. 10.
“The Gateway match was a good one,” Goertz said. “We had a phenomenal second set. Defensively, there were balls they kept alive and sending an aggressive attack that was impressive. They were leaping through the air and making plays that make games fun.”
When asked about Gay and Solis, Shipley said their greatest contributions are not what fans see on the court or on the stat sheet. Rather, it’s in their interactions with their teammates and others in the program.
“They show them how to be a great teammate,” the coach said. “They help each other. Zaria has had to learn by example from MaeSyn. They treat freshmen like they’re senior teammates. They love each other, they build them up. Some of our juniors struggle with confidence. Both of them help with that. It changes those juniors and makes them believe it because MaeSyn and Zaria said it.”
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