Volleyball: Resilient Pearland shocks Dawson in four sets

September 12, 2018

Having lost to Dawson on its home court earlier this season, Pearland certainly didn’t enter Tuesday’s showdown with the Lady Eagles as the favorite in the Dawson gym.

But when the stars align, strange things can happen.

The Lady Oilers, bringing just a 16-12 record into the match, played razor-sharp volleyball for three sets in claiming a 25-21, 31-29, 15-25, 25-13 victory over the Lady Eagles (24-7) in a District 23-6A matchup.

That match was all about digging: Pearland scrambled and retrieved much of what Dawson fired its way while the Lady Eagles simply couldn’t dig themselves out of a hole.

Pearland (2-0 in district) even saved four set points in the crucial second set in showing plenty of resiliency.

“We feed off each other, and we wanted it really bad tonight,” said Pearland senior setter Katie Whitehead, who had 27 assists and 13 digs. “We were just ready. We started off the year strong, and I think we just got complacent.

“We started losing because we were scared to win. We had to come out strong tonight against big, bad Dawson.”

Pearland senior outside hitter Abby Smaistrla, who had 20 kills and nine digs, was also an instrumental figure most of the evening.

“Our passes made the difference,” Smaistrla said. “We hadn’t been passing that well, and everyone just stepped it up.

“Another key is that we never gave up. We game-planned, and we knew what we wanted to do. We just laid it all out there. We had nothing to lose.”

The teams were tied at 20 in game one when Pearland won five of the last six points to take the set. Lauren Britt hammered a kill to take the Lady Oilers to 22-20, and two Dawson errors sent Pearland to a 24-21 lead.

Pearland eventually won the set on a block by Jackie Arrington, who finished the night with an amazing seven blocks.

Game two proved to be pivotal as the teams fought tooth and nail from start to finish. Pearland had leads of 21-18, 23-20 and 24-22, only to see Dawson (0-1 in district) battle back each time.

A kill by Dawson’s Kynnedi Johnson and a Pearland error knotted the game at 24-all.

The Lady Eagles then had set points at 25-24 and 26-25, and each time Smaistrla summoned a winner for Pearland. Dawson again had set point at 28-27, but committed an error. One final time, Dawson had a chance to close out the set at 29-28, but Britt produed a block winner, and then Lady Oiler junior April Conant delivered a serve winner to take Pearland to set point at 30-29.

The Lady Oilers then won the set on a disputed call on a ball hit by Dawson’s Kaitlyn Scroggins, which Dawson players and coaches believed was touched by a Pearland player.

If that emotion-filled set drained Pearland, it certainly showed in set three. Dawson turned a 12-10 edge into a 19-10 lead with a 7-0 run which featured four block winners by Nicole Deslatte.

The Lady Eagles continued to cruise the remainder of the game with Thalia Cordero’s kill ending the set at 25-15.

Any momentum Dawson might have had, though, at the end of the third set only made a cameo appearance in the fourth.

Pearland went on an immediate 10-0 run to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 10-2 lead. The Lady Oilers retrieved anything Dawson put over the net while the Lady Eagles were often their own worst enemy.

When Britt put away a kill in the midpoint of the game, it gave Pearland a comfortable 18-6 advantage.

The Lady Oilers eventually sealed the deal with a Smaistrla kill.

“It was a game of errors tonight for us, and Pearland was very consistent,” Dawson head coach Lauren Leth said. “We had so many people off.

“In a match, you might have one person not having their best night, but it just seemed like everybody had their worst game. We just couldn’t pull ourselves out of it.

“Ultimately at the end of the day, Pearland earned that win. It was a great victory for them, and hopefully it motivates our girls to start working more on minimizing errors.”

Pearland’s Sam Demmon and Britt had nine and seven kills, respectively, while Megan Hinks added 18 assists and 15 digs. Chloe Jordan and Stasha Adams also had 15 digs for the Lady Oilers.

“We started the season 9-2, taking out good teams,” Pearland head coach Christian Dunn said. “We knew the talent was there, we just let it get away from us the last two weeks.

“The girls did almost everything we talked about. We executed the scouting report. Dawson should have a chip on their shoulder. They’d already beaten us once, they have a great program, and Lauren is a great coach.

“If they equalize us in that second set, then they probably relax. We had three sets to take care of business after that. After set three, I told our girls ‘OK, that’s our one-set break’.

“At the start of the fourth set, I said let’s get back in it and the girls did exactly that.”

Whitehead said she hopes the Lady Oilers can be fueled by the victory.

“This gives us confidence to keep pushing,” she said. “This is huge because we were in a rut. Now we’re 2-0 in district, and we just need to keep building on it.”

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