The Leon volleyball team was admittedly tense during last week’s 3-1 loss to Chiles.
The Lions had four days following that misery to shake off the District 2-7A defeat and learn the lessons they needed to learn.
First step, have fun.
“The biggest difference is everybody’s energy feeding off each other,” said fun-loving junior middle hitter Caroline Kirk. “Last time, we may have had some negative energy around us, and today we made it completely positive.”
The “today,” was a bounce-back game at Lincoln on Tuesday in yet another important district match.
And if you can’t have fun playing a rival and trying to beat them, the losses will take their toll.
Leon never looked tense, allowing it to withstand Lincoln’s never-say-die attitude.
The Lions won 3-1 by scores of 25-20, 25-23, 19-25 and 25-17, while embracing the lessons learned in a one-week span.
“All week at practice we tried to stay up, and for me, I think that’s my role especially to bring fun, positive energy and make people laugh,” said Kirk, who had seven kills in Leon’s well-rounded attack.
“Today, everyone was feeding back. And we just played so well.”
With Lincoln (6-1, 0-1) displaying a strong block that caused disruptions to Leon’s violent offensive tendencies.
Sophomore Kaylyn Buchanan and her length led the Trojans at the net with four blocks, while six-foot sophomore Veresia Yon also provided a middle complement to deter the Lions’ first choice of attack.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all summer, because it’s something we struggled with all year,” Lincoln coach Paige Pridgeon said. “I think it’s really made a difference in our gameplan this year. We scouted them and they scouted us, so we know what the other is doing.
“I saw some good things tonight though that I haven’t seen before.”
Leon adapted, however, and began to tip over the block, and Lions outside hitters Daijah Washington (10 kills) and Grace Pickron (six kills) found room in the middle to hit the floor.
Caroline Dempsey added six kills for Leon, which pulled away in the fourth and final set with 6-1 and 5-0 runs early on.
“We were getting blocked, but in the defense they were playing the middle is more susceptible to being open,” Leon coach Angie Strickland said. “We tried to get them out of system and did that tonight, but we also went back and swung away.
“Bottom line, our girls just had fun tonight.”
Lincoln held a 15-7 advantage over Leon (6-2, 1-1) in the second set, but it slipped away.
Trojans outside hitter Callie Workman (14 kills) looked deflated after the set loss.
Lincoln battled back to win the third set. Madison Fitzpatrick recorded 13 kills and 16 digs for her team, while Workman pitched in with six digs and two aces.
“It was really tough and I expected us to win that second one because we were up so much,” said Workman said. “We went into the third thinking we could win and that we could win the whole match. But it’s very hard at that point.
“The emotion between Leon and Lincoln is really tough. It’s more emotional than physical.”
Lincoln is already a young team with just one senior on the roster and a crop of sophomore starters.
The Trojans are also starting a freshman setter in Loren Scott, and she got her first glimpse of a dynamic rivalry.
“She’s awesome and has been doing great this season,” Workman said. “Without her we wouldn’t be who we are. And Daelynn (Shoaf) too coming in as a freshman.
“Going from middle school volleyball to high school volleyball is so different, especially playing on varsity. The speed of the game is so fast.”
Scott tallied 35 assists and 16 digs, while Shoaf made eight digs.
“Loren wasn’t as effective tonight (with setting dumps) because Leon had scouted her and picked it up, but there’s a world of things you can teach her as a tall, lefty setter,” Pridgeon said.
“She’s going to be effective all four years and will probably be a big-time recruit.”
Leon was balanced, which is the benefit of depth, depth it utilized the entire night.
Freshman middle hitter Makayla Washington led with 11 kills, while senior sister Daijah Washington had 10.
Senior setter Jaynie Mitchell amassed 23 assists and 10 digs, while Veronica Teek (13 digs), Elyse Thompson (10 digs) and Hannah Rodriguez (10 digs) also helped strongly in defense.
“Our setters do a really good job spreading the floor and one time setting the 4, one time setting the 3, the 6, so everyone has that one shine moment to get their final kill,” Makayla Washington said.
“It’s just a good feeling to know that we have so many hitters and such a giant offense that we can set anyone and almost make a good play on every one.”
LEON def. LINCOLN, 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 19-25, 25-17)
Kills — Makayla Washington 11, Daijah Washington 10, Grace Pickron 7, Caroline Kirk 7, Caroline Dempsey 6
Digs — Veronica Teek 13, Jaynie Mitchell 10, Hannah Rodriguez 10, Elyse Thompson 10
Assists — Mitchell 23
Blocks — M. Washington 4
Aces — D. Washington 3, Mitchell 2
Kills — Callie Workman 14, Madison Fitzpatrick 13
Digs — Fitzpatrick 16, Loren Scott 11, Daelynn Shoaf 8, Katie Seccombe 8, Lauren Shively 7
Assists — Scott 35
Blocks — Kaylyn Buchanan 4
Aces — Workman 2
Leon (6-2, 1-1 District 2-7A), Lincoln (6-1, 0-1 District 2-7A)
Leon vs. Berkeley Prep, Fri., Battle of the Borders; Lincoln vs. Bradford, Fri., Gator Town Classic