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A&M Consolidated volleyball team drops season opener to Cypress Ranch
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A&M Consolidated volleyball team drops season opener to Cypress Ranch

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A&M Consolidated vs. Cypress Ranch

A&M Consolidated’s Jordyn English (2) hits a kill attempt during the third set against Cypress Ranch on Tuesday at Tiger Gym.

The Cypress Ranch volleyball team had the firepower to make A&M Consolidated pay for opening-night mistakes as the Lady Mustangs won 25-23, 25-17, 25-22 on Tuesday at Tiger Gym.

Cy-Ranch took control midway through each of the last two sets with outside hitters Bionna Mueoneke and Ava Martinolli leading the way. In the second set, sophomore Mueoneke had two kills and a block during a 7-0 run that gave the Class 6A Lady Mustangs a 21-15 lead. Senior Martinolli had a kill in the third set to tie the set at 17. Cy-Ranch broke the set’s ninth tie because of two rotation violations by Consol, and the 5-foot-7 Martinolli added another kill for a 20-17 lead, a deficit the 5A Lady Tigers weren’t able to overcome.

“We’re preaching it’s the little things,” Consol first-year coach Colten Conner said. “It’s serve-receive. It’s when we ask them to get outside on a block we expect them to get outside on a block. It’s just those little adjustments that we need to get used to making late in the game.”

The Lady Tigers had two nice spurts in the second set. Consol jumped to a 5-2 lead as 6-foot freshman Charlie Crowson and junior Emma Pahl had kills and senior Jordyn English had a block. Cy-Ranch regained momentum for a 14-10 lead with four aces along with kills from Martinolli and 6-foot senior Maddy Villarreal. But after a timeout, the Lady Tigers played their best while taking a 15-14 lead behind the play of 5-11 senior Cierra Gilbert and the 5-10 English.

“We started out strong, but it comes down to being confident at the end of the game when it can go either way,” Conner said.

Gilbert ended with five kills. Junior Ava Derbes added three, while English and Pahl each had two.

“I was pleased with the overall energy and passion that’s there,” Conner said. And [Gilbert], she is the fuel to our offense and when she is high energy the rest of the team follows. She had high energy all night. When she made mistakes, she shook it off and went after the next play, and I’m super proud of that.”

Derbes added 12 assists for the Lady Tigers, who went 26-15 and reached the area playoffs last season but have to replace a trio of seniors who earned first-team, all-district honors.

“We threw in some people who were in varsity for the first time this year, and that’s just the little things of not being used to the game,” Conner said. “But what I did like about that is they adjusted afterwards and they played hard towards the end.”

Some of those newcomers did their best to prolong the match as the Lady Tigers fought off two of Cy-Ranch’s most vicious hits during the last volley, but the poised Lady Mustangs kept attacking to earn the match point.

“I’m going to give them all the credit. Their pins are fun to watch,” Conner said. “But that’s what we need at the 5A level. We need that high competition. I’m not mad at this loss at all. They’re good and we competed point to point and that’s all I could ask.”

Cy-Ranch scored the match’s first three points, but Consol bounced back to tie it at 4 for the first of eight ties in the set. The Lady Tigers didn’t lead until Gilbert dinked in a shot for a 15-14 lead. Martinolli, one of four returning starters from a 16-24 team that didn’t make the playoffs despite an 8-8 district record, came up with the shot that broke a 21-21 tie. Villarreal later slammed a shot down the line to win the set. That power was repeated several times as the Lady Mustangs had 14 kills in the match with only three errors in 44 attacks.

“I think that’s the difference between what we’ve had previously,” Cy-Ranch coach Beverly Woodward said. “We have great pin hitters, and they mesh really well with our setters this year. We’ve got a freshman setter [Tayrn Gilreath] and a couple options there along with the starter, a senior [Kailey Friedrich] and it flows real nice with the pin hitters and getting those middle [hitters] mixed in.”

Friedrich had eight assists and Gilreath added three as Cy-Ranch limited its unforced errors.

“I think it comes down to ball control, and we’ve really focused on that a lot in the offseason,” Woodward said. “And a lot of those [opponent] errors come from that.”

Tuesday night’s season-opener for Consol was delayed because of COVID-19. Class 4A and smaller schools opened their season Aug. 11, but the UIL pushed back the start for 6A-5A to this week. Consol continues a busy week Friday at Mayde Creek and Saturday at Bryan, also both 6A teams.

NOTES — Cypress Ranch won the JV match 25-17, 25-20 and the freshman match 25-28, 25-16.

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