Even though both the Mexico and Centralia varsity volleyball teams are focused on their respective conference schedules, on Monday they went head-to-head.
This non-league matchup didn't disappoint, either, coming down to the final points of the third set as the Lady Bulldogs just barely came out ahead, 16-25, 25-18, 25-23.
"I told the girls that even though tonight things came out in our favor, that was not good volleyball. We had a lot of hitting errors tonight and that hurt us," said Mexico coach Shayla Cox. "We served better. In the first and third set I think we only had one mis-serve in one set and two in the other. The one thing we have to do is play with the type of energy we had at the end from the very beginning."
In the initial set the Lady Panther's were in control from start to finish This included going up 20-13 to force Mexico to call a timeout, only to then widen the gap to 23-16 before bringing things to a close.
"Our communication got better as the night went on and I loved the energy. It's promising to see this team come back and keep fighting even when they're down," Cox said. "Two years ago that wouldn't have happened."
The second set began on a much more even note and was deadlocked at 11-11 when Centralia called a timeout to discuss strategy. It was all Mexico after that, pulling ahead 19-13 and 22-17 prior to claiming three of the next four points to earn this seven-point victory.
"Our second set was a little rough, but we pulled it out. We have another game (Tuesday), so we're going to come straight out and hopefully have a little more energy from the beginning," said Cox. "When we get to practice we'll work on the little things. We've been saying for years now that the theme and the culture of this program starts with building from the ground up."
As for the third and final set, the Lady Panthers finally took the advantage at 14-12 after calling a timeout and then widened the gap to 21-16 to make the Lady Bulldogs call a timeout of their own. Mexico then managed to pull within a point at 22-21, which then became a 24-23 lead that spelled the beginning of the end for Centralia.
"It takes us a while to wake up, but in that third set we had a lot of energy. We wanted to win that set and we have to have that desire in the first set. We can't wait and then fix it," Cox said. "I wouldn't say that we're slow starters. I think it's just a matter of that when it comes down to it, they're going to get the job done. We just can't settle with just getting by and just getting the job done. We need to go in from the beginning thinking we're going to get the job done."
Centralia was at Wright City on Aug. 29 and travels to New Haven on Sept. 7.
Mexico, 2-1 overall, hosted Eldon on Tuesday and played a North Central Missouri Conference contest at Marshall on Thursday.