In volleyball parlance, a dig is the pass or play of any ball that is attacked.
The West volleyball team had to dig deep on Tuesday night — in more ways than one.
Clawing out of a 2-1 hole with a frantic display of defensive hustle, West outlasted Franklin, 23-25, 25-22, 12-25, 26-24, 15-11, in the Region III-3A quarterfinals at Robinson High School. West (31-15) advances to the regional tournament at the Lobo Coliseum in Longview, and will play the East Bernard-Hardin winner at 6 p.m. Friday, needing two wins to reach the state tournament.
From start to finish, the teams fought tooth and nail, with usually no more than a couple of points separating the two on the scoreboard. Just how tight was it? For the duration of the match, there were 28 ties on the scoreboard.
Even the final point was a television miniseries unto itself. With West leading 14-11 in the fifth set, the teams waged a long volley, extended by some sprawling digs, until finally Mia Pokluda rapped the clincher on a spike through the middle of the Franklin defense.
“Oh, yes. The volleys,” West coach Sandy Dickerson said. “The last three games we’ve had some extended volleys, and tonight it definitely showed. It helped having all those long volleys in our games.”
This is a West team marked by perseverance, so a deficit on the scoreboard didn’t seem to faze the Lady Trojans. The most recent adversity that hit the team was the death of Dickerson’s mother. The funeral was Monday, and Dickerson — who rejoined her team for Tuesday’s match — said she was extremely grateful for the support shown by her players and coaching staff.
“They’re playing with heart, compassion, passion,” she said. “(My senior leaders) and my assistant coaches have carried on without me being there since Friday, and I can’t thank them enough. It just means the world.”
Franklin (36-9) turned in a gritty effort as well. The Lady Lions relied on some potent attacking at the net from seniors Mikki Cole and Raylee Nowlin in building a lead in the opening set. West rallied and fought to a 23-23 tie, but Franklin took the final two points when the Lady Trojans hit long of the line and then Nowlin ripped a crosscourt kill for the clincher.
West fell behind again in the second set before surging back from the service line. Emeri Eubanks tagged consecutive – and timely – aces late in the set, and freshman Claire Simmons chipped in an ace of her own, and the Lady Trojans were able to square the match at a set apiece. Eubanks finished with a team-best five aces.
But things spiraled south for the Lady Trojans in the third set. West’s setting turned erratic, leading to more back-line hits. As a result, Franklin dominated the set, rolling to a 25-12 win.
Dickerson’s message to the team in the huddle was a simple one: Hit the ball.
“That game is over with, and we’re starting back over from game one. Just go play,” Dickerson said. “We have to hit, we can’t tip on anybody. We need to hit the ball. We need to do what we do best, and that’s hit and play our game, not play someone else’s.”
The Lady Trojans followed their coach’s advice. Scrambling with abandon and showing crisper passing, West pushed Franklin to the brink. With the set tied at 24, Kearstyn Woodard came through with a chopping kill to put her team in the lead, and then Mary Jane Janek delivered a perfect tip over the Franklin blockers for the clincher.
Those seniors continued to lead the way in the fifth, decisive set. The Lady Trojans fell behind 4-1 and 6-3, but didn’t buckle. Woodard spanked a timely ace, and Janek helped West battle to tie the score at 8 when she flicked a two-handed set over the net and into the back corner of the court for a point.
“They’ve been in pressure situations from softball all the way through,” Dickerson said. “A lot of them in basketball, too. A lot of these seniors have been on varsity for three to four years. It makes a difference, makes a big difference.”
Woodard pounded a team-best 14 kills and Janek added 10. Hallie King and Pokluda offered eight kills apiece. Defensively, senior libero Cassie Pavlas came up with 29 digs and the freshman Simmons had 27. Pokluda was steady at the net, finishing with 10 block assists.
Lorena advances to regional tourney
BREMOND — The Lorena Lady Leopards are becoming marathon champions.
Lorena won its second straight five-set match in the playoffs, overcoming Caldwell, 22-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 15-9, to advance in the Region III-4A quarterfinals.
The Lady Leopards (38-6) will move on to play the Hargrave-Diboll winner in the regional semifinals in Bryan on Friday night.