By David Clute
Leon 3 – Lovelady 0
Coming off a decisive win over Cayuga in the Bi-District round of the playoffs, the Lady Cougars moved to the Area match against the Lovelady Lady Lions. The game, played at Fairfield High School, attracted many fans from both schools and each team was well supported by their hometown faithful. After player introductions and the playing of the National Anthem, the starting teams took their positions and prepared to test each other for the chance to move on to the next round. Lovelady grabbed the first two points in the opening set but committed an error on the next play giving Leon a chance to tie with a dig from Lauren Salley, pass to Jordan Robinson and set back to Salley for the kill. Allee Pervis followed up with an ace for the lead. Lovelady tied the score at 3 all, but that was as close as they would get for the rest of the set. Leon built a lead with a strong offensive output by the big hitters, Salley, Pervis, Kaitlyn Kirschner, Caitlyn Crane and Emily Sitton. Jordan Robinson had all but one of the nine assists in the set, and the Lady Cougars rolled to a 25-10 win.
Two ties, 3-3 and 5-5, was about the best Lovelady could come up with in the second set. Leon won the set by committing far fewer errors than the Lions and with good serves and big swings for scores. With Leon up 9-6, the Cougars ran off 12 straight points to go up 20-6 to put the set out of reach. Leon finished the set winning 25-11.
The Lady Lions came out for the third set with clear determination to get back in the match. It was their best set of the night. Once again, the teams tied at 3-3 and 5-5, before Leon began to find their rhythm. Lovelady helped the Cougar cause with several net balls, but Leon was also having trouble getting everything over. Blocks by Caitlyn Crane and Emily Sitton, and a good amount of “trickery,” finally allowed Leon to pull away. With Leon ahead 20-12, the Lady Lions made their final run, scoring two unanswered points, but could only add three more to end the match and their season with a 25-17 loss.
The Lady Cougars quietly celebrated and turned their attention on the next opponent.
Leon 3 – Deweyville 0
The neutral sites agreed on by both teams are routinely an equal distance between the two schools. Leon and Deweyville are nearly 200 miles apart, so the site of the Regional Quarterfinal match landed in Huntington, which is only 7 miles farther from Jewett than Deweyville. It was a good choice, but still a couple of hours of travel for fans of the two teams.
The Lady Pirates came into the match at the top of District 24 with a district record of 13-1, tied with Evadale, who coincidently, was playing District 22 Co-Champion, Iola on the same night. District 22 prevailed in both incidences. In what some Cougar fans might say is a little uncharacteristic for this team, Leon took leads in each set. The Lady Cougars are a good come from behind team and often get down early in a match only to come back and win big at the end. This match was a little different with the Cougars starting out on top and running out each set without ever being tied or behind in the scoring. The Cougars had doubled the score on Deweyville at 10-5 in the first set before the Pirates had their first run. They closed to 15-12 when Lisbeth Ortiz made a great save allowing Lauren Salley to get a kill and Leon to pull away. Ortiz also had four unreturned serves to boost Leon’s advantage to 23-13 on the way to 25-14 win.
The Lady Pirates started out the second set in a fog. They may have been a little dazed by the Lady Cougar onslaught of the first set, but they simply could not return the first 10 serves by Allee Pervis and found themselves in a hole that was impossible to recover from. Unofficial scoring gave Leon 35 kills in the match with a couple of notable hits by Emily Sitton in the second set. Good hits are made possible by good sets and Jordan Robinson gets the job done for the Cougars. Two good sets at the 16-6 and 17-7 point allowed freshman Sitton to put down two memorable kills that likely would have been unstoppable by any team Leon has played this season. Leon won the set 25-10.
The Lady Cougars had a big third set lead at 15-6 before the Lady Pirates made a desperate attempt to salvage the match. With a big black and white Pirate flag waving in the Deweyville student fan section, the team dug in and played their best. It just wasn’t enough. Leon gave up several points at the end by committing avoidable errors, but a Caitlyn Crane kill ended the set and match with a 25-18 victory and chance to play another day.
Matches only get harder from here. Leon played District 20 Champion Beckville on Tuesday, November 10 in the Regional Semifinal game. The winner of that match will likely face Iola in the Regional Final to determine who goes to the State Semifinal game. Leon fans will recall the 5-set win by Leon against Iola in last year’s tournament, and if Leon can defeat Beckville, we will just have to wait to find out if history repeats itself.