Senior year came quickly for A&M Consolidated libero Maddie McKinney, but she started the volleyball season on a high note as the Lady Tigers swept Manor 25-8, 25-15, 25-15 in a nondistrict match Tuesday at Tiger Gym.
“I still feel like I’m in freshman year,” McKinney said. “They all say life goes by so fast, and it’s honestly so true. Everything about high school has gone by so fast, so this being our last first game is crazy to me.”
Consol first-year head coach Tayler Gray said she was happy her team got the win but saw several areas in need of improvement, starting at the service line. Despite aces by five players, including two by sophomore setter/outside hitter Ava Derbes, the Lady Tigers had 11 service errors.
Gray experimented with several combinations of players and said Consol’s rotation is not set yet but that McKinney, Derbes and senior outside hitter Sutton Springer have established themselves as leaders for the Lady Tigers.
“I think [Derbes], Maddie and Sutton are going to end up being the pillars,” Gray said. “I think Sutton and Maddie do a good job of keeping everything poised. What I’m going to ask of them is a little bit more drive, a little bit more push, but they’re feeling it out, too. They have a lot of emotions. It’s their last first game in here. But it’s a work in progress, and that’s what I expected it to be.”
The Lady Tigers have plenty of height this year and a mix of newcomers and veterans but lost several key players including middle blockers Riley Daniel and Harper White. Losing those two in addition to setter Emily Edwards and libero Sawyer Nowak had McKinney nervous heading into Tuesday’s match, she said, but the lopsided win was reassuring.
Consol outscored Manor 16-1 at one point during the first set and scored nine unanswered points to open the second set, but the Lady Mustangs fought back in the third set, taking their only lead of the match early and keeping the score close with short bursts of points even after the Lady Tigers retook the lead. Manor cut its deficit to 12-10, prompting a Consol timeout, and the Lady Tigers went on a 5-1 run to widen the gap.
“I thought we were able to learn about ourselves, that we could really come together through adversity,” McKinney said. “Just because we lost a bunch of big players, we’re still good as a team together.”
Springer led Consol with 10 kills, while Derbes had five kills and 12 assists. Senior setter Sydney McCorkle led the Lady Tigers in assists with 28, and Gracen Harrell had a team-best five digs.
Consol will return to action in the Nike Katy/Cy-Fair tournament from Thursday to Saturday and will have a road match at 5 p.m. next Tuesday at Houston St. Agnes before returning to Tiger Gym at 6 p.m. Aug. 16 to face Conroe Grand Oaks.
“I told them it’s not a race,” Gray said. “We’re not coming out of the gun really, really hot. We’re just going to continue to grow and to peak, and we’re going to put people in different positions. We’re just going to feel it out, because we know the most important season is district.”
NOTES — Consol’s subvarsity teams also swept Manor on Tuesday. Consol won the JV match 25-9, 25-8, the freshman A match 25-16, 25-5 and the freshman B match 25-20-25-20.