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Lady Deer met by struggles at Turner Classic

August 12, 2018

PEARLAND - For Deer Park’s opening 40 points in its first match of the Gold Bracket at the prestigious Adidas John Turner Classic, all was fine.

The team held a 1-0 lead in games on New Braunfels High School and was leading Game 2 by a 15-12 count.

Then out of nowhere, the Lady Deer hit a mini skid that not only cost them the momentum, but a second-round berth.

And a third and a fourth.

New Braunfels High School exploded for 10 unanswered points, sparking the team to a come-from-behind 22-25, 25-16, 25-16 victory at Pearland High School.

That defeat dropped Deer Park into a maze of consolation matches where the team’s hopes for a rebound were met by a brick wall, losing eight consecutive games and four straight defeats to the likes of San Antonio Johnson, Clear Brook and Dripping Springs on top of new Braunfels.

Johnson got the Lady Deer by scores of 25-20, 27-25 at Lutheran South High School Friday afternoon. Saturday morning in an 8 a.m. start, at the Pearland Recreation Center, the Lady Wolverines edged Deer Park 25-23, 25-20.

That led to a 25-14, 25-20 setback at the hands of Dripping Springs back at Lutheran South’s court.

“We haven’t had the same six players this whole tournament. I’ve been switching it up. I think this is the time to do it. I’m switching setter to libero to DS (defensive specialist). In the end, we’re going to be OK. I’m just trying to find the right fit, the right rotation. Once we do that, we’ll be fine. Now’s the time to do it. We have the players who can do it. It’s just a matter of finding the right lineup,” head coach Cortni Cox said.

But it was just strange how that skid in the New Braunfels match suddenly made Deer Park struggle the rest of the weekend.

On the up side, in five of the team’s eight straight losses, Deer Park scored 20 or more points. So with a little imagination, the outcomes could have been flipped.

New Braunfels, which had its own struggles after its win over Deer Park, appeared to have a height advantage on the Deer.

The Lady Deer defense struggled to contain that height. By match’s end, the group of Allison Smylie, Madison Glassco, Grace Gettys, Rian Millership and Emily Smylie had tallied 26 kills.

During that momentum-stealing 10-0 rampage, Emily Smylie and Millership combined for three kills, but Deer Park was also whistled for two infractions. Smylie also stuffed Adalyn Cable for the fifth straight point and Ellie Wipf blocked another ball, creating a one-point difference.

Game 3 was a chance to regroup, but the Deer never got any footing. The most consecutive points was three, but all that got the maroon and gold was a tie contest at 12-12.

The deficit was only 16-14 when the Lady Unicorns outscored Deer Park 9-2 the rest of the way.

The only time Deer Park led in Game 3 was at 2-1.

In Game 1, Deer Park trailed 6-2 when it scored seven straight points, forcing a New Braunfels timeout. The Lady Deer feasted on Unicorn mistakes such as kill attempts landing in the net.

Ella Harrell held serve for the final seven points.

With the lead only 17-14, a service error and strong play at the net by Hope Hawthorne and Jackie McGee, during one sideout, made it a five-point lead. Hawthorne, on a pass from Harrell, scored the 20th point, before a Hannah Baker block, a Hawthorne kill and a McKenzie Morvant simple dink in front of her to the other side of the net iced the win.

Against Clear Brook, the team’s last lead was 13-12 in Game 1. Two ties and two one-point deficits followed the rest of the way in Game 1. In Game 2, seven one-point deficits and three ties riddled the contest, but the Lady Deer were never able to completely steal the momentum.

Of Clear Brook’s final 13 points in Game 1, three were scored by either penalties or service errors. Throw in two hitting errors and there’s five points that could have swung the victory in Deer Park’s corner.

Courtney Plocheck and Morvant supplied the offense for Game 2’s home stretch, but Clear Brook’s lead climbed back to five when a blocked ball couldn’t stay inbounds, followed seconds later by a Brook blocked ball that not only stayed inbounds, but sailed all the way to the back of the court that the Deer couldn’t do anything about.

A service error and a Kailin Newsome kill then ended the match.

Against Dripping Springs, Deer Park’s attempt to force a third game was looking good until its opponent went on a 5-0 run, using the jump serves of Avery Kalsu to start the scoring. But points 12 through 14 were due to Deer Park miscues as the deficit grew to 16-10.

Deer Park returns to the regular routine of best-of-5 matches Tuesday night when the team travels to Dickinson High School. Match time is 6:30.

Next weekend, the team travels to New Braunfels for that school’s tournament and maybe the chance to meet the Unicorns again.

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