Saturday, September 04, 2010

SPORTS>>Lady Red Devils hold on

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils were looking for an easy conference victory, but the upstart Searcy Lady Lions club gave them all they wanted in a five-game nail-biter at the Devils Den on Thursday.

Jacksonville took the match 25-12, 22-25, 29-27, 12-25, 18-16 to begin 6A/7A-East Conference play.

The Lady Devils (2-1, 1-0) overwhelmed their opponents with strong serving in Game 1 before Searcy adjusted and came back to win the second game. The margin never exceeded two points for either side in the third game.

Searcy denied Jacksonville four match points in the final game and came back to take a 16-15 lead before two defensive errors and an ace by Jacksonville junior libero Taylor Ruple finally iced it.

“There were a lot of things we definitely didn’t do well,” Jacksonville coach Melissa Reeves said. “But I told the girls in the locker room that last effort is all you can really ask. They gave everything they had and showed me a lot of heart.

“But we’ve just got to correct so much.”

The lack of a dominant net player for either team made defensive play key, and Ruple delivered for Jacksonville with nine digs, and Katie Lawrence had five more.

“Defense is crucial,” Reeves said. “We’re still working on coverage and them knowing exactly where they are. We’re a little behind, but we have corrected some habits and are correcting other habits.

“We do get caught standing around watching a lot. When you play in 6A, you can’t sit around and wait for things to happen, you have to make things happen.”

But it was the Lady Red Devils’ service game that gave them the early advantage. Senior hitter Chyna Davis led the way in the first game with four consecutive aces as part of her game-high eight.

The aces took Jacksonville from a 5-4 deficit to an 8-5 advantage, and Sierra Davis kept momentum with three kills that allowed Jacksonville to build a double-digit lead.

Searcy’s serve-receive ratio improved in Game 2. After giving up nine aces in the first game, the Lady Lions surrendered only two in the second, and junior Michaelah Weaver closed the gaps in the backcourt to deny Sierra Davis the easy kills.

Chyna Davis had two kills midway through and another pair late that extended the game-three score to 26-26.

Lawrence then got her first kill of the match for game point, and Chyna Davis ended it with an ace on the back line that Searcy players protested was out.

The Lady Lions’ youth showed on the disputed play, as non-captains questioned officials on the call, which goes against protocol.

Jacksonville fell apart in the fourth game but gathered itself for the fifth. Searcy got out to a 4-1 lead on the service of junior setter Cheyann Bolin before the Lady Lions gave most of that lead back on defensive errors.

Sierra Davis tied it 8-8 with a kill before teaming up with Chyna Davis for a block that gave the Lady Devils their first lead of the game at 9-8.

Chyna Davis and Lawrence got one more kill each, and Searcy made two more errors before giving up one more ace to Ruple that ended it.

Jacksonville was hit-and-miss offensively, but senior setter Tyler Pickett gave the Lady Red Devils plenty of chances with a perfect match in the middle.

Pickett went 72 of 72 on sets through five games. Cierra Davis led offensively with nine kills while Chyna Davis added seven.

Cierra Davis also had six blocks.

Coyja Hood had four aces for Jacksonville.