CRAWFORD — When the annual “Pink Out” game rolls around each year in Crawford, it means more to the Lady Pirates than just being able to wear pretty rose-colored shirts and wristbands.
The objective of the night is to raise awareness — and money — to fight cancer, as the school holds an auction in conjunction with the game, then donates the proceeds later. It’s a mission that hits home with the Crawford volleyball program in more ways than one.
“It’s always been special for us, just because my mom being a breast cancer survivor, it was important to her,” Crawford coach Jeff Coker said. “Now, just carrying that on in her memory, it just really has been important. Then two of the kids on our freshman team have parents battling cancer. It was just a really cool night for everyone.”
Oh, and by the way, capping off that night with a victory is a Crawford tradition as well. The third-ranked Lady Pirates took care of that objective by dispatching a good Blum team, 25-6, 25-15, 25-15, to clinch their 90th consecutive district victory and their 11th straight district championship.
Crawford (35-7 overall, 14-0 in District 13-2A) disposes of many of its district opponents without hardly breaking a sweat. So Coker always appreciates facing an opponent that will offer up more of a challenge, and Blum (28-13, 13-2) represents just such an obstacle.
“We know Blum’s a good team and they’re going to go really far in the 1A playoffs,” Coker said. “They were in the regional final last year, so it’s nice when you have to get ready to defend somebody who has a really good hitter and you have to play good defense. It’s fun to be in those competitive games.”
Indeed, Blum — behind its rafters-dusting hitter Gentrye Munden — should do some damage in the playoffs, when 1A schools like it is get a chance to separate from their 2A brethren and play only schools with similar enrollment. And the Lady Cats actually struck first blood in each of the three sets on this night, scoring the first point each time.
But Crawford wins for a reason. The Lady Pirates aren’t only incredibly talented, but they are also blessed with tenacity, toughness and — as they showed against Blum — loads of touch. Throughout the night, Crawford’s hitters displayed a unique knack on when to hammer away for a high-velocity kill attempt and when to flick a tip over the blockers and into a hole in the defense.
“We definitely work on our shots and talk about what’s going to be open against different people,” Coker said. “I just learned a long time ago, losing a lot of different playoff games to Leon and all those people, you’ve got to be able to mix up your shots and if you hit the same ball in the same spot every time anybody can stand there and dig it. But when you mix it up and you can hit the ball hard or you can tip one or roll one, do different locations, you’ve got a lot better chance of scoring.”
Senior setter Haley Vaughn made myriad contributions, in typical fashion. She kept Crawford’s hitters well-fed, delivering 46 pinpoint passes for assists. Vaughn’s precise consistency, refined by more volleyball matches than she could possibly remember, was best reflected midway through the opening set, when she chased down a slightly off-target pass, then punched the ball over her shoulder with a swinging bump set to her teammate Anne Williams 15 feet away. Williams powered home the pass with a kill.
Of course, Crawford’s players are also well-coached — and they understand the tradition which they are expected to uphold. That’s why they haven’t lost a district match since 2011, when their leading hitter on this night, Williams, was a fourth grader.
“We’ve been blessed to just have a lot of good kids. It’s something they take pride in,” Coker said.
Williams finished with a double-double, tallying 15 kills and 12 digs. Baylee Griffith ripped nine kills, almost all of them missiles that Blum had a hard time digging out. Morgan Claxton contributed eight kills and Nielee Plemons added six.
Camille Ward was a rock on the back row with 17 digs, while Peyton Elmore picked up 10 digs and two aces.
But the real stars of the night were all those people waging their own battle against cancer. They were never far from the team’s mind, as a large banner hung on the back of the gym wall that read, “Supporting the Fighters, Admiring the Survivors, It’s Pink Out Day!”
As Coker said, two of Crawford’s freshman team players each have a parent in the midst of such a fight.
“One of the girls actually served the game-winning point in the first set of the freshman game,” Coker said. “It was just a really good night, and our kids always seem to play pretty well on these nights. They know it’s important to me, and it’s been really good.”
Copperas Cove 3,
The 23rd-ranked Lady Bulldawgs fought back from a 2-1 deficit to effectively wrap up the District 8-6A title on Midway’s home floor. Cove took the match, 21-25, 25-18, 20-25, 26-24, 15-7.
Cove improves to 35-8 overall and 10-0 in the district, while Midway falls to 17-16 and 9-2.
Moody 3, Rosebud-Lott 1
TRAVIS — Moody clinched the District 15-2A championship by putting down the Lady Cougars, 17-25, 25-19, 25-21, 26-24.
Canyon Hughes whacked 19 kills to go with three blocks and three aces for the Lady Bearcats (14-11, 11-0). Jaylah Good was plenty good again, with 11 kills and four aces, while Liz Perkins distributed 39 assists.