The Santa Fe community packed the high school’s gym and went home happy, as the Lady Indians swept the Barbers Hill Lady Eagles, 25-13, 26-24, 25-20, on Tuesday night in the first match of the volleyball regular season.
“They were able to get out here and brave that first night back in the gym in front of all their fans, their community,” Santa Fe head coach Jennifer Webb said. “We had a really nice crowd, so it was really great to see everyone come out and support the kids tonight.”
With a Santa Fe community still healing from the deadly May 18 school shooting rallying behind its high school team, it was an impressive Lady Indians rally on the court that proved to be the turning point in the match.
Down triple set point at 24-21, Santa Fe stunned Barbers Hill with five unanswered points to take a two-set lead. Leading the wild comeback was the killer instinct offense of senior outside hitter Kylie Verm and the strong serving of senior setter/right-side hitter Kassidy Taves.
“I think everybody just started clicking and that’s whenever we started getting excited, and the other team, that put them down a little bit,” Verm said.
Santa Fe started off the second set well, but an 8-1 run by Barbers Hill, led by senior outside hitter Jessica Hardin, turned an 8-6 Lady Indians lead into a 9-14 deficit. Santa Fe chipped away at the Barbers Hill lead, but at 24-21, it appeared the effort might be too little, too late.
“They don’t give up ever, and they don’t like to lose,” Webb said. “So, they’re going to play as hard as they can every time.”
Taves began the rally by serving up off two straight aces, and then back-to-back kills from Verm put Santa Fe at set point at 25-24. A kill from junior outside hitter Rylie Peters wrapped up the set for the Lady Indians.
A sloppy start for Barbers Hill buried the Lady Eagles in the first set, while, conversely, the Lady Indians looked like they were in near midseason form in their season opener. Santa Fe never trailed and steadily pulled away to breeze through the opening frame.
As they did in the first set, the Lady Indians never trailed in the third set, but Barbers Hill managed to make it more competitive. Clinging to a 17-16 lead, a quick burst of three unanswered points — starting with a kill from senior middle blocker Jillian Gibbs and capped by an ace from junior setter Elena Dondonay — provided enough breathing room to successfully close out the set and sweep the match.
“I was very impressed,” Webb said. “I knew they were going to come out and play well because they’ve been working hard all summer in team camps and the past few days in practice. In scrimmages, they looked really well. So, I’m very excited about the way they played.”
Depth also proved to be an advantage for the Lady Indians, as they got a good balance of contributions. Verm (12 kills, 13 digs) and Taves (10 kills, 15 digs, 15 assists) were equally impressive on both offense and defense. Dondonay had a team-high 16 assists, while sophomore libero Freedom Stephenson (20 digs) and junior outside hitter Cassi Cruz (19 digs) led the defense.
Santa Fe returns to action Thursday through Saturday in the Adidas John Turner Classic hosted by Pearland ISD.