Collinsville

The Collinsville Lady Pirates downed Sam Rayburn 25-16, 25-12, 25-15 on Tuesday to improve to 7-2 in district play.

To say that the Collinsville Lady Pirates have had to jump through a few hoops this season would be an understatement.

Half of their team had to be quarantined due to potential exposure to a student with COVID-19 and the Lady Pirates had to begin district play without their full arsenal.

However, Collinsville has rebounded well and started to find their game. On Tuesday, Oct. 6, the Lady Pirates downed Sam Rayburn 25-16, 25-12, 25-15 to improve to 7-2 in district and 10-9 on the season.

Despite getting all their players back and enjoying plenty of success, head coach Melissa Johnson said the Lady Pirates didn’t play as well as they wanted to.

“It was weird to play Sam Rayburn in volleyball because this was their first time in our district,” Johnson said. “We’ve played them in basketball at lot. We didn’t play at the level we needed to play. I know a win is a win. It was sloppy for us. I told them after the game we can’t have that type of sloppiness and errors we had. In our last set, we had given them five points on missed serves alone. It was a weird night.”

Overall, the team is rounding into form and Johnson said her team is better at covering blocks and with its backrow defense.

“With us having so much youth on the team, their speed is up to tempo and they’re used to the varsity speed right now,” Johnson said. “We’ve got three middle blockers on the team with Taylor Sheppard and Addisyn McDonnell and their presence at the net for blocks and attacks have really helped out. Rosie Cordero started as a transfer and made her way up to varsity and she stepped up in some crucial situations.”

Offensively, sophomore Katie Johnson has stepped up as an outside hitter.

“She’s our second leading scorer and she is the only player that plays all the way around, which is hard to do,” Melissa Johnson said. “She’s a returner from last year and as a freshman last year, she was also our second leading attacker. She and Taylor are our two top attackers. She’s matured her game and has taken ownership and is still learning the game.”

Johnson admitted it was tough losing half her team for much of the season and that it was slow progress when they came back.

“They were hesitant and not being used to the speed of the game again,” Johnson said. “A lot of it was mental performance. They were still getting used to the chemistry and they had to relearn each other. We’ve been on a bit of a winning streak. After we lost to Wolfe City to start district, we learned we have to cover the blocks.”

After falling in four sets to Wolfe City to begin district, Collinsville had a response the second meeting as the Lady Pirates won 25-12, 25-16, 25-14.

Johnson said the team’s preparation was a key component for its success.

The season as a whole has been tumultuous, according to Johnson.

“It’s been so up and down for us and I know several teams have been without players,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely not the same. Last year we didn’t have to deal with [COVID-19], but now it’s a part of our life. It’s hard to predict. Every day is so different. We’re barely hanging on by a thread by ourselves. I tell them not to worry about who’s on the other side of the net no matter what their issues are.”

The Lady Pirates need one more win over a Class 2A opponent to secure a playoff spot and Johnson said she and her coaching staff have hammered to her team the importance of maturity and taking ownership of their individual roles.

“You have to earn it and the expectation is still there to make the playoffs,” Johnson said. “Our team has really bonded and we have a relationship where you understand that playing a role is important. We’ve got great senior leadership in Makayla McDonnell is our pre-game captain and she gets our girls mentally ready before warmups. She gets our girls ready to compete.”

Reach Patrick Hayslip at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip

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