The Cleburne Lady Jackets came up short in their first match at the Jeff D. Cody Arena on Tuesday as Everman spoiled the christening of the new facility with a four-set win.
The Lady Jackets started strong but the ending of the opening game set the tone for the rest of the match. Cleburne led from the opening serve as the Lady Jackets had game point at 24-20. But Everman scored five straight points to take a 25-24 lead, its first lead of the game.
Cleburne answered to tie it at 25 and again at 26 before Everman scored the final two points on a Cleburne hitting error and four hits for a 28-26 win and a 1-0 lead.
“It was excruciating,” Cleburne Coach Rachell Pope said in regards to blowing a 24-20 lead. “It’s still our struggle with unforced errors. We’re beating ourselves at this point. We’re going to have to do a better job of staying mentally focused and not letting that happen to us.
“We have a rule that we’re not supposed to let teams score more than four points against us without us making a point. But we’re breaking that rule every set. We’re going to have to keep working on it. It’s just us being inconsistent. We’ll do some drills in practice that will work on our mental toughness and focus.”
Everman carried the momentum into the second set as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-5 lead. Cleburne went on a 6-1 run to pull to within 13-11 but it was the closest the Lady Jackets would get as Everman captured a 2-0 lead with a 25-20 win.
In the third game, Cleburne used an 8-1 run to take a 12-7 advantage en route to building a 20-13 lead. Just like in game 1, Cleburne found itself with a 24-20 lead, and again Everman pushed late scoring two in a row to pull to within 24-22, but this time the Lady Jackets closed it out with a kill from Addison Moore to push the match to a fourth set.
With the Bulldogs holding a 19-16 lead in the fourth game, Cleburne’s struggles finishing strong did the Lady Jackets in as Everman ended the set and match on a 6-1 run.
Moore led Cleburne with 14 kills. Addie Weinschenk had 18 assists while Joy Smith added 16 assists. Andi Whitefield chipped in eight kills.
At the Duncanville Tournament of Champions last weekend, the Lady Jackets went 3-3. In pool play Friday, Cleburne beat DeSoto (25-9, 25-18) and Lancaster (25-13, 25-14) before losing to Kennedale (25-20, 25-16).
In bracket play Saturday, the Lady Jackets lost to Argyle (25-8, 25-10) and Kennedale (25-16, 25-13) before bouncing back with a win over Crowley (25-15, 25-27, 28-26).
After Tuesday’s loss to Everman, Cleburne will carry a 3-6 record into play at the Brewer Tournament on Thursday, and Pope said they simply have to eliminate the unforced errors.
“We’ve got to cut down on our unforced errors — service errors, bad passes, blocking errors,” Pope said. “I believe in swinging at the ball. I’m OK with hitting it in the net or hitting it out from time to time when you’re aiming for a spot. That’s fine; be aggressive. But we can’t make those careless unforced errors. It’s mental and it’s still a little bit about learning as a young group. But we’re almost 10 games in and it’s time to see some more consistency.”
Additionally, Pope said she needs to see her team play at their own set tempo and speed instead of letting their opponent set the tone.
“Everman wasn’t a fast tempo team, but we can get fast,” she said. “When we played Kennedale and Argyle, they were fast tempo teams and we played fast. But we’re real bad about mimicking what’s on the other side of the net. We have to play to our own speed.”
At pool play of the Brewer Tournament, Cleburne is scheduled to play L.D. Bell, Arlington Heights and West beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The junior varsity Lady Jackets opened the new Jeff D. Cody Arena with a win over Everman.
Cleburne’s JV came away with a hard-fought win in three sets, 25-22, 14-25 and 25-22.
Protecting a 23-22 lead in the decisive third set, Cleburne’s Lindsey McCrea secured the win with a pair of clutch service aces.