By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun
— TYLER — Round 1 is over, but you can bet Saturday’s opening round match between Tyler and Navarro was just the first of what could shape up to be the best rivalry in the nation.
Tyler delivered enough to stop Navarro’s rising volleyball team that had just broken into the national poll this week and has aspirations of reaching the nationals.
The Bulldogs (19-4) would have made a big climb in the poll with a victory against No. 2-ranked Tyler (20-1), but the Lady Apaches held service at home, winning 25-23, 15-25, 25-16, 25-13 in a match that was packed with long volleys and hard-fought points between a couple of power teams that looked a lot alike.
“There were five seven-ball rallies. You can’t beat volleyball like that,’’ Navarro Coach Kasey McBrearty said. “The score doesn’t reflect how good of volleyball we played between each point.’’
That was the overwhelming theme of the day. Nothing came easy for either team, but in the end Tyler did what it had to do to win again. The Lady Apaches had just beaten defending national champ and previously No.1-ranked Blinn College and were still riding that high into the anticipated showdown against Navarro’s Bulldogs, who had won eight in a row on their trip to breaking into the national poll.
They broke Tyler’s momentum in the second set, ripping the Lady Apaches 25-15 after battling to the final points in an intense 25-23 loss in the opening set. The second-set loss marked the first time that Tyler lost a game in a match since September 5 when it beat ranked Odessa College.
“The way we played in the second game is how we have to play all the time,’’ said outside hitter Kelsie Schmidtberger, who had some brilliant moments. “It just proves that everybody has to do their job.’’
That’s almost a mantra at Navarro, where McBrearty preaches a non-stop work ethic approach that her players embrace.
There were times when the Bulldogs simply didn’t look like the Bulldogs.
“We were high-error today, and we have never played high-error before,’’ McBrearty said. “We still haven’t lost in three. That says something for our team.’’
Navarro had its moments. Hailee Showers was unstoppable at times, driving home 17 kills and Daisge Smith slammed home 10 more. Schmidtberger had nine kills, and the back row had some inspirational digs. Glorines Rosado had 13 digs and Lexey Wilson had 10. Smith had eight digs to go with her 10 kills.
The loss snapped Navarro’s eight-game winning streak, but the Bulldogs started another one immediately afterward with a win over Lee College.
“I’m OK with 19-4,’’ McBrearty said after her team stormed back in the second match of the tri-match Saturday, sweeping Lee 25-10, 26-24, 25-15. “I’m not OK with a lack of effort. We picked up the effort in the second match.’’
Navarro, which could have been down after the tough league loss to Tyler, regrouped and destroyed Lee in the first set, taking it out with a 25-10 rout before blasting its way to its ninth win in its last 10 matches.
Schmidtberger had 16 kills and Showers had 13 against Lees while Smith had seven more in the sweep. The team defense was amazing.
“That was a tough loss, but we had to come back right away,’’ said Wilson, who had to take over at libero against Lee after Gabriela Del Mar Rosa hit her head on the floor and left the match.
Navarro was diving for balls all day and Wilson gave the Bulldogs their most dramatic point of the afternoon, running down an all-dig volley. She finally caught up with the wild ball beyond the back line and — with her back to the net — went diving and somehow sent an over-the-head spinner that not only cleared the net but found the floor between three stunned Lee defenders.
That’s the kind of effort Navarro is accustomed to having, and that’s exactly what McBrearty loves about her players.
“We came out and did our job finally (against Lee),’’ McBrearty said. “We knew we had to make a change and we knew we had to make a change immediately. We couldn’t take two steps back.’’
The tough loss to Tyler might even catapult Navarro forward.
“Losing could be a good thing,’’ Schmidtberger said. “It pushes us to fight that much harder.’’
The Bulldogs will have at least one more chance against Tyler and possibly two. The two powers meet at Navarro on Oct. 18, and the two might meet in the Region XIV Tournament, which will be held Nov. 7-8-9.
“Good teams can learn more from a loss than a win some times,’’ McBrearty said. “And losing to the No. 2 team in the country is the best way to learn.’’
REGION XIV VOLLEYBALL RESULTS SATURDAY, SEPT. 20:
Tyler d. Navarro, 3-1 (25-23, 15-25, 25-16, 25-13)
TVCC d. Panola, 3-2 (26-28, 29-27, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13)
Paris d. Lamar State-Port Arthur, 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-15)