JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
GEORGETOWN — The Llano High School volleyball team’s season ended Nov. 1 with a bi-district championship loss to Caldwell: 19-25, 17-25, 21-25.
“I couldn’t have swept through this season any better,” Lady Jackets head coach John Black said. “These seniors have been with me for four years; they’re so special.”
The Lady Jackets (22-16 overall, 9-3 for second in District 19-4A) had a 16-14 lead in the first set but were outscored 11-3 by the Lady Hornets (21-14, 4-4 District 20-4A).
In the second set, Caldwell seized control with an 18-9 lead and never looked back.
The third game went back and forth as the Lady Jackets erased a 15-19 deficit to tie the set at 19-19.
But the Lady Hornets’ depth took over thanks to three consecutive kills from the middle of the net.
Llano senior Angela Palmares stepped behind the line with her team trailing 20-24 and helped save one match point thanks to a kill by teammate Skye Sanderson, a junior.
Palmares said she felt confident as she served with the aim of extending her team’s season.
“I definitely like the thrill of a big game like this,” she said. “They definitely ran a faster offense than what we’re used to. Seeing it on film was different than (playing against it).”
But the match ended when Caldwell junior middle blocker Sam Hoelscher split the block with a kill.
Black credited Caldwell for executing its offense well, noting the Lady Hornets put pressure on defensive specialists to accurately pass the ball to setters. He said Llano setters had to quickly get to passes that weren’t on target, which is challenging for hitters because they had to adjust to sets that might not have been on an accurate trajectory to them.
“We didn’t get our first touch,” Black said. “(The back row) didn’t get the ball to the setter where she wasn’t on the move.”
In addition, the Lady Hornets adjusted to the Llano block by going over outstretched hands with tips or around the block. And when Caldwell beat the blockers for a clear look at the floor, Black said the hitters “hit the ball hard.”
“It comes up, and you have one of those nights,” he said. “Did we have nerves? Possibly. (Caldwell is) a good, hard-hitting team. It’s going out and executing and stopping them.”
This is the first time in years Llano has qualified for the playoffs, so it’s understandable the Lady Jackets were getting used to the difference of playing in a regular-season match versus a single-elimination playoff contest, Black said.
A loss in the postseason doesn’t take away all the other accomplishments of the season, the coach said, noting the upperclassmen embraced the underclassmen to form a strong bond and made it a point to include people of all walks of life during the season. To Black and his players, this season was about the caring atmosphere that resulted in tremendous on-court success.
“It felt like a family,” Palmares said. “We had faith in coach Black and faith in each other to stick together, and that’s what we did.”
“The season was amazing,” senior CeCe Overstreet said. “I feel like this year, we’re so much closer; it’s what helped us through games. I think we definitely set a bar. We haven’t done well the years before. Us going to the playoffs with so many underclassmen, we set a bar.”