FRISCO — Thursday’s Class 3A area-round playoff game between Melissa and Sanger illustrated just how fine the line is in volleyball between winning and losing.
The Melissa Pioneers took leads after the first and third sets, but the Lady Indians withstood several runs and doled out multiple rallies to force a decisive fifth set.
Sanger led early in the fifth set, but the Pioneers used four- and five-point runs to advance to the regional quarterfinals with a 25-19, 22-25, 25-21, 21-25, 15-10 victory at Frisco Heritage.
“We fought hard,” Sanger coach Tammy Niemcyzk said. “This is the first time this group has ever been to the playoffs, so I’ve got a young group. I thought they fought their butts off tonight. We were just going to fight one point at a time. I think we really focused on that. I know we had some young-kid moves, but they should hold their heads high. Any given day, I think that could have gone either way, honestly. They’re a good team and I think we’re a good team.”
The Lady Indians, who beat Frisco Lone Star in the bi-district round, made the playoffs for the first time in Niemcyzk’s three years and took an 8-5 lead in the opening set, but 6-0 and 8-1 runs gave Melissa enough breathing room to take the first set.
After Melissa delivered a 7-1 run for a 7-4 lead in the second set, the Lady Indians held close with the Pioneers with offensive help from sophomore Jaylen Pegues and senior Kayla Askey before taking three of the last four points to even up the match at a set apiece.
Melissa’s 11-4 advantage in the third set led to a 20-12 lead, but Sanger answered with an 8-3 run to draw within three. However, Melissa was able to squeak out the set victory 25-21.
Needing a win in the fourth set to stay alive, Sanger disregarded Melissa’s 6-3 burst and closed out the set on an 8-3 run to send the match to a final set.
“Our whole goal this whole time was ‘just get one,’ Niemcyzk said. “Our focus wasn’t on the last ball. It was on the next ball, so we constantly focus on that one point. I really think that helped us tonight to stay focused on what was at hand and not worry so much about the score or getting behind, because in volleyball momentum can take over in a flash. We stayed focused and consistent and we didn’t put our heads down, which is great for a young group.”