TYLER, Texas – It was a marathon Saturday for the Blinn volleyball team.
In the second day of the Region XIV Conference Tournament, the Buccaneers were on the brink of eyeing their season end on two occasions. Instead, they lived to play at least one more day.
“We made it tougher on ourselves than it needed to be,” Blinn (32-3) coach Erin Mellinger said. “But we pulled it out. We stayed together and I can’t tell you how proud I am of these girls.”
The top-seeded Bucs lost a five-set match to Laredo in Saturday’s opening match, one of two teams to beat them this season, after jumping to a 2-0 match lead. Following the loss, and in an elimination game, San Jacinto nearly ended the Bucs’ season as the Ravens held a 12-10 lead in the fifth set. But costly errors by the Ravens and a kill by Bruna Evangelista, Blinn’s returning All-American, allowed Blinn to rally to victory.
They rode the momentum to a sweep over the Paris Lady Dragons in their second win-or-go-home match of the day, 25-17, 25-12, 25-19.
“They knew it was do-or-die tonight,” Mellinger said. “I think we relaxed. I told them to go out and play harder, to play with some heart and pride.”
Where the Bucs struggled all day with hitting errors –– they had 49 hitting errors in their first two matches –– they limited their errors to 13 against Paris and improved its hitting percentage to a .366 in the match.
Blinn’s defense limited Paris’ offensive production as it combined for nine blocks and held the Lady Dragons to a .115 hitting percentage.
Outside hitter Rachel Sharp played a big part in the Bucs’ win against Paris, as the freshman from Tarkington, Texas, had 12 kills and posted a team-high .478 hitting percentage. Evangelista had a game-best 14 kills, and Trinity Alualu assisted another eight.
Sophomore Kariana Castanon-Hill played a big part on Blinn’s front line as she contributed three of the Bucs’ nine blocks in the match.
But it was sophomore setter Crystal Young’s leadership that Mellinger said sparked the Bucs.
“She was the reason why we won. When we’d get down, she was the one telling the players we weren’t going to lose,” Mellinger said.
Blinn gets another chance at Laredo at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Lady Palominos beat the Bucs Oct. 12 in five sets after the Bucs had taken a 2-0 match lead. Laredo leads the head-to-head matches this season 2-1. The winner of Sunday’s match advances to the conference championship to play second-ranked Tyler and clinches a berth to the national tournament in Casper, Wyo., Nov. 21.
“We’ll be ready for tomorrow,” Mellinger said.
For more information on Blinn volleyball, including a live broadcast and stats of the Region XIV Conference Tournament and an up-to-date bracket, visit www.buccaneersports.com.
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