By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – It was Senior Night for the Grapeland Sandiettes last Tuesday and in a pregame ceremony, Jakara Jackson, Jenna Lawrence and Hailee Sheridan were honored by the Grapeland coaching staff, family, friends and teammates.
Following the ceremonies, the Sandiettes took the floor for a volleyball match-up against the North Zulch Lady Bulldogs. While the young Grapeland squad played well at times, they could not get past a veteran laden North Zulch team and fell in straight sets, 25-19, 25-17 and 25-21.
The Sandiettes matched the Bulldogs play for play throughout the contest. In set one, Grapeland and North Zulch played to a draw in the early going as the two teams were tied at 10. The Lady Bulldogs pulled ahead as the set continued and moved to an 18-12 lead before the Sandiettes cut into it and rattled off five of the next six points to slice the lead to 19-17. Unfortunately, that was as close as Grapeland would get as North Zulch hung on for the 25-19 first set win.
In set two, the Sandiettes led through most of the early stages and even held a 14-13 advantage at one point. The Lady Bulldogs, however, managed to regroup and went on a 12-4 run to close out the second set by a score of 25-17.
Down by a count of two sets to none, Grapeland and North Zulch locked up in in third set battle highlighted by long rallies, spectacular digs and awesome kill shots from both teams. After the Sandiettes fell behind early, they managed to rally and took the lead at 12-9.
As the set continued, the Lady Bulldogs came back to recapture the lead before the Sandiettes tied things up at 16 and briefly led at 21-20. That was all the Grapeland squad could manage as the experienced North Zulch team recaptured the lead at 22-21 and closed out the set and the match with a 25-21 victory.
After the contest concluded, Head Coach Megan Simison commented on her team’s performance throughout the season. “We thought we were going to be in the playoffs up until about three days ago,” she explained, with a hint of dejection.
“Last year, North Zulch was a 1A school and the teams split at the end of the regular season and North Zulch went into the 1A playoffs. This year they got bumped up to 2A so in this year’s playoffs it will be North Zulch, Normangee, Centerville and Iola. We ended up in fifth place so we missed it by one spot,” she said.
With the loss to North Zulch, the Sandiettes’ season came to a close. Given this was her first year at the helm of the Sandiette volleyball program, Coach Simison was asked for her thoughts on the team. “They did very well. I’m pleased. Obviously, I hate to lose and I wasn’t that happy with our district recor d – but for the season overall – I am very pleased. We have a really young team and that’s a lot of pressure to put on players that young. We had a freshman and a sophomore who we asked to carry the team. That’s a lot of pressure to put on them, but they did really well,” she said.
“Also,” Simison continued, “we were playing an offense none of them had ever played before. It was hard for them to get used to it initially, but they did really well. I’m happy overall.”
With the exception of the three seniors, the coach said, “We have everyone coming back next year and we also have some really, really good 8th graders coming up. This team has come a long way from where they started at the beginning of the season. Being this was my first season of coaching, I also learned a lot which will be changed for next season that will hopefully help us in some ways. It was a big learning curve for all of us.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.