Sometimes the balance of power shifts on a single moment, a single event or even a group of smaller events that lead to a much larger outcome.
At Cleveland Thursday night that balance tipped in the first game of a three-game sweep by the Lady Raiders. Cleveland fought back in the opener to take a 25-21 win over the Lady Mustangs then stepped up twice more winning by scores of 25-17 and 25-19.
"It could have been totally different if they had won the first game," said Cleveland coach Patricia Flowers. "I'm very proud of my team. I feel like that was one of the best games we have played all season as a team."
Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett felt the same way.
"We played with them the first game, we should have won the first game. We had as much opportunity as they did to win the first game then we just started giving up on the second and third games," said Pruett.
The Lady Mustangs controlled the first half of the first game taking an early lead sitting on a 12-7 cushion before the balance shifted in favor of Cleveland.
Aneisha Barbers' kill sparked a five point Cleveland run that saw Marissa Langford and Allison Botts recorded kills to tie the game at 12-12. Kellee Geren's ace put Cleveland up 16-14 and the Lady Raiders never trailed again breaking two ties at 20-20 and 21-21 to win 25-21 on two Langford kills and a KK Clements service point.
The Lady Mustangs were again without the play of Baylee Boen who is still recovering from a tendon injury.
"She (Boen) does make a difference, but we've got girls that can hit the ball. Madison (Pruett) probably didn't have over four kills the whole entire match. I know she is just a sophomore and I probably put a lot of pressure on her, but we have to have somebody other than Rachel (Lawhorn) putting balls away," said Pruett.
"We've got another outside (hitter), we've got two good right sides, but nobody was putting balls away and we just kept dinking and pushing and tipping and free-balling and we let Marissa (Langford) have another great night."
Game two was another battle at the beginning. Langford tied the game at 4-4 and Amber Morman had back-to-back kills to put Cleveland out front 7-6. Minutes later Morman put the Lady Raiders on top 13-7 before Walker Valley countered with three points and closed the gap to 13-10 with a kill by Rachel Lawhorn.
The Lady Raiders came back with four consecutive points to go up 17-10 and cruised to a 25-17 win.
Lawhorn finished the night with 11 kills to lead the Lady Mustangs.
"Rachel had a great game. She has been playing really well the last few games. The rest of the hitters couldn't do anything at all. They couldn't play. I just feel like we didn't show up tonight," said Pruett. "It was a big district game and we really needed it. The girls just didn't show up."
Again in the final game of the night, Walker Valley started strong and raced to a 6-2 lead and built the advantage to 10-4 after an Ashlyn Flock ace.
But, as they did in the first two games, the Lady Raiders chipped away at the Lady Mustangs' lead and closed the gap to 13-11 with kills by Morman and Langford. After another Langford kill, Addie Strode cut it to 14-13 with another Cleveland kill. A Langford block tied the game at 14-all. Back-to-back aces by Kayla Lee made it 17-14. The Lady Mustangs finally got a break two points later and closed the gap to 20-17 on another Lawhorn kill.
"We got into a funk a couple of times but we came back out of them," said Flowers. "We hit the ball very well tonight. We placed the ball very well, we passed well, we served well. They played phenomenal."
Kills by Langford and Barber put the Lady Raiders out front 23-17. Walker Valley picked up two more points before Barber put the finishing touches on the sweep with a kill to close out the 25-19 win.
Langford finished her night with 16 kills for the Lady Raiders.
Flowers was pleased with the all around play of the Lady Raiders and said the team showed what they can do when they play as a unit.
"I have to give a shout out to Allison Botts. She played fantastic. Amber Morman, she's a freshman and played fantastic. And as always, Marissa came out there. A lot of people think she is the best player, but she has improved a lot on certain skills," Flowers praised. "As long as we keep doing that we are going to head in the right direction."
For Cleveland, Strode served up three aces and Clements ended with two. Strode also had eight kills while Botts and Morman booked seven each. Barber added five to the Cleveland final tally. Kayla Lee picked up 27 digs, Langford had 23 and Botts added 19 and Geren notched 16. Geren also picked up 36 assists on the night.
Walker Valley’s Ashlyn Flock served three aces for the Lady Mustangs while Alex Rominger picked up 12 digs and Abby Campbell earned 13 assists.