Abilene High's Aven Horn (4) and Jadyn Hernandez defend on the net as an Odessa High player hits the ball. AHS defeated the Lady Bronchos on Wednesday at Eagle Gym with 25-16, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19 in District 2-6A's volleyball game. (Photo: Joey D. Richards / Abilene Reporter-News)
The Abilene High volleyball team was forced to close everything, including training, after COVID-19 hit the team after a 3-0 loss at Midland High on October 9. The Lady Eagles didn't train again until Saturday, but they still trained and managed to get better – and it was evident in a 25-16, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19 win over Odessa High on Wednesday in a District 2-6A match in the Eagle Gym.
How did you get better during the two-week quarantine despite the short court time? Well, through zoom meetings that have become common in the novel coronavirus era.
"We did a lot of Zoom meetings and looked at our team culture because we don't lose games because we are not talented," said AHS coach Devron Shepherd in the first year. "We're losing games because we're not an effective team. You saw an effective team tonight. And that's important and we have to build on that."
It wasn't just a mental adjustment that helped the Lady Eagles (4-6 total, 2-3 districts) post a two game loss. Shepherd also switched to a three-center front.
"That forces our other players to hit from different places," said Shepherd. “Sarah Cox played in the middle. She hadn't done that since last year. We had a bigger block on the outside with some of my mids playing on the right. I like the dynamic very much and I think the children buy in too. "
Abilene High's Maddie Perez serves up the ball to Odessa High. AHS defeated the Lady Bronchos 25-16, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19 in District 2-6A volleyball on Wednesday at Eagle Gym. (Photo: Joey D. Richards / Abilene Reporter-News)
Second midfielder Jadyn Hernandez had eight team-level kills, junior outside hitter Gentri Anderson had seven, while second midfielder Mia Cairo and senior Cox each had five. Shea Bruntmyer had 16 assists and Jaclyn Allelo had 10.
“We gave them a few challenges to get out of different positions and guess what? They showed up with confidence and did it aggressively, ”Shepherd said. “There were a lot more kills at the front than just a key player or two. There were more effective games tonight because they played together as a team. "
Maddie Perez had a match high of 20 digs while Cox had 16 and Anderson had 14. Bruntmyer also had five of her team's 12 aces.
Brianna McClure led OHS (2-9, 0-7) with 12 kills, 11 assists and 13 digs.
It was a win AHS needed to stay in the playoffs. The Lady Eagles had to look after a team in the overall standings and sweep the district series against the Lady Bronchos. w AHS has to play three games over two days at the weekend. The Lady Eagles play at Midland Lee (4-4, 3-3) on Friday before coming home to play San Angelo Central (11.00am) and Odessa Permian (4.00pm) at Eagle Gym on Saturday. AHS 'playoff hopes will likely depend on these three games.
"We're going to see really good volleyball," said Shepherd. "Guess what? They're going to get some good hits on us and we have to make sure we're mentally strong enough to work this through and come back even with aggressive play."
Abilene High's Sarah Cox hits a free ball for a kill in the second set against Odessa High. AHS defeated the Lady Bronchos on Wednesday at Eagle Gym with 25-16, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19 in District 2-6A's volleyball game. (Photo: Joey D. Richards / Abilene Reporter-News)
Central defeated Permian 3-1 on Wednesday while Midland beat High Lee 3-0. Permian and Central are in third place in the district with 3-3, Permian with 2-5. Permian will host the Wolfforth Frenship (5-0) on Friday while OHS plays at Central. Midland High is second with 6-1.
Shepherd feels a lot better about where her team is right now. Ironically, the team was working on Zoom meetings because of the mental work the team had done during the two-week quarantine.
"Coach (Caroline) Cleveland and I really told the girls," Shepherd said of the online meetings. "Again, we are unsuccessful because our skills are lacking. It's due to our team culture. We literally spent two weeks working on our culture and what it means to play for someone else and to make sure that it is not just in the game It's about us – the one person, the person. It has to be about the team and they really did it today.
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Abilene high def. Odessa High 25-16, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19
ODESSA HIGH – Kills: Brianna McClure 12, Kaia Minjarez 7, Paige Byford 5, Aubrey Villa 2, Carime Gonzales 2, Nadia Hernandez 1, Bryanna Ordaz 1; Assists: McClure 11, Minjarez 10, Gonzales 4; Digs: Gonzales 16, McClure 13, Minjarez 7, Ordaz 7, Hernandez 4, Byford 2, Jade Hernandez 2; Blocks: Byford 11/2, Marissa Rodriguez ½; Aces: J. Hernandez 1.
ABILENE HIGH – Jadyn Hernandez 8, Gentri Anderson 7, Mia Cairo 5, Sarah Cox 5, Paighton Lawton 3, Aven Horn 2, Jaclyn Allelo 2, Biloxi Shultz 1; Assists: Shea Bruntmyer 16, Allelo 10; Digs: Maddie Perez 20, Cox 16, Anderson 14, Allelo 7, Bruntmyer 6, Cairo 3, Shultz 3, Lawson 1, Hernandez 1, Isa Escobedo 1; Blocks: Shultz 1, Anderson 1, Hernandez 1; Aces: Bruntmyer 5, Perez 3, Allelo 2, Hernandez 1, Anderson 1.
RECORDS – Odessa High 2-9, 0-7; Abilene High 4-6, 2-3.