On Monday night Coach Mullins Lady Pirates took the court against Southwest with a chance to all but guarantee themselves a top 2 seed in this year’s district tournament.
Crane took advantage of the opportunity, dispatching the Lady Trojans 25-22 and 25-19 in Monday’s nonconference match.
“We’ve been talking about this game for weeks,” said Mullins. “We knew if we got a win over Southwest that it would put us in position to get a 1 or 2 seed in districts. Since we’ve been preparing for them we’ve had that thought in our minds and tonight the girls rose to the challenge.”
It didn’t come easy for Crane though.
The game’s first point saw 5-foot-11 Southwest standout Shannon Mitchell turn a spike from Crane sophomore Emma Lander into a 1-0 lead for the Lady Trojans on a block-kill.
Mitchell entered Monday’s contest with 257 kills and 85 blocks on the season.
But, from that point on the Lady Pirates we able to hit around, over, and at times through Mitchell, seemingly catching Southwest off guard.
“We talked about Shannon, and knew they were going to key on her, but we really just wanted to stay aggressive and play our game,” said Mullens.
With the match tied at 22, Southwest set up Mitchell for what looked to be another thunderous kill. But, middle blocker Kylee Moore had other plans.
The junior stuffed Mitchell’s kill attempt, giving Crane a 23-22 lead.
The ensuing point would see Moore dig up a huge spike from Mitchell, resulting in a Lander killer.
That sequence seemed to haunt Steve Voyak’s club the rest of the night.
“They didn’t block her a lot, but when they did they scored off of it,” said Voyak. “It was a huge play, and really a turning point.”
At 5-foot-5, Moore isn’t the prototypical middle blocker, but on Monday night she often found herself in the middle of the action, making a play for Crane.
“I had a college coach laugh at me this summer when I told her that Kylee played middle for us,” said Mullens. “She’s one of the shortest on our team, but she reads people so well and moves so well that she is really effective in the middle. She is also so mentally tough, if things don’t go her way she is able to shake it off and come back harder.”
Also coming up big in the first set was Lander.
Just a sophomore, she came up with six kills and three blocks in the first set, helping to neutralize the impact of Mitchell.
“Emma is just a lot of fun to have,” said Mullens. “It is awesome to have a player that you can set anytime we are down or need a point. We know it is going to the floor.”
After last week’s SWCL loss to Spokane, Coach Mullins was pleased with how her team responded on Monday night.
“I’m extremely proud of our girls,” said Mullens. “After the Spokane game we talked about using our god given talents and taking advantage of what they’ve been given. Tonight I think that message really sunk in.”
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