EL DORADO — In its first unofficial match of the 2012-2013 season Monday, the defending state champion Union Mine Lady Diamondback volleyball squad swept the visiting Antelope Titans in three sets, 25-12, 25-8, 25-20.
“I was very pleased with the girls’ performance tonight. We did a great job of team passing, blocking, and communication,” new coach Marti Howton said after the annual Foundation game that won’t count toward a team’s win-loss record.
The Lady D’backs, who return only three players from last year’s D-IV title team, started off their defense with a smooth first set. After a couple of Antelope tips tied the game, junior Andrea Barnes smashed a powerful kill down the throat of the Titan defense to give the D’backs a lead they never coughed up.
A series of great serves by Barnes staked the hosts to an 11-5 lead, highlighted by a gorgeous rainbow tip by senior Sarah Phillis after a long rally. After the teams traded several points, two aces from junior Jordan Buxton and another rainbow tip from Phillis put Union Mine up 16-8 and in control. After some back-and-forth, the D’backs sealed the deal on the first set with a couple kills from Barnes, and a block from Gabrielle Fredericks.
The second set was much like the first, with the home team taking the early lead. After giving up the first point on an out of bounds serve, Union Mine rattled off nine straight points behind great serving from Buxton and a strong kill from Brooke Howton. Neither team put together any momentum after that as Union Mine led 15-5 but a beautiful ace from Taylor Thomas and another pinpoint ace in the corner from Howton helped the D’backs run away to a 25-8 set win.
After taking a 3-0 lead in the third set, Union Mine was well on track to running away with the final game before but Antelope fought back. Led by Ciarra Roberts and Chelsea Frederick, the Titans rallied to within 10-11. After three straight Howton aces, the D’backs re-upped their lead to 18-11 and backed by a thunderous kill from Phillis and great defensive play, Union Mine held off another Titan charge to take the third and final set.
“I tried a lot of different lineups and tactics in the final set, and encouraged the girls to try more jump serves,” coach Howton said.