The California Lady Pintos came into Monday night's game against Marshall High School riding a tidal wave of success.
California came into the matchup off a busy Saturday of hosting Fulton's inaugural Melissa Hoerber Volleyball Tournament when Fulton High School couldn't. California finished the tournament with a 4-0-1 record and a season record of 8-0-1. California suffered their first non-win of the season when they tied 1-1 in their set with Kirksville. The Lady Pintos went on to earn two victories over the Savannah Savages, and then two more victories over conference rival Eldon.
But the success at Saturday's tournament came with a price. California lost two of their starters to injuries when Bailey Lage and Emma Parish suffered ankle injuries and did not play Monday night against Marshall. Head coach Julie Bailey moved senior Rylee Hees to the libero position in place of Parish, while sophomore Ella Bailey took Lage's spot.
After winning the first set over Marshall 25-11, the Lady Pintos hit a bump in the road when they gave up the first three points of the set and found themselves behind for the first time. But California had a strong answer, scoring 13 of the next 15 points.
After the Lady Pintos won the second set 25-12, Marshall didn't have an answer for the Lady Pintos in the third set. California scored the first 11 points of the set and, despite a few miscues afterwards, took the third set 25-9 and won the match 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-9). Led by senior Ella Lewis, The Lady Pintos' victory against the Lady Owls improved their overall record to 9-0-1.
But despite the victory, coach Bailey said California's greatest Achilles heel reared its ugly head again throughout the night.
"It was a different pace of game, so we didn't stay as focused as we should," Bailey said. "It will definitely be a much faster-paced game against Blair Oaks. We have to be ready to play."
As the Lady Pintos get ready to take their undefeated record on the road to Blair Oaks, they will need to have the mentality of "next girl up" with the injuries that they've suffered during the past week, Bailey said.
"Bailey Lage went down with an ankle injury. Emma Parish injured her ankle against Eldon on Thursday night. And then tonight, Abby Trachsel got hit in the face and scratched her eye. So she is out," Bailey explained. "So we're now down three starters and our sophomores had to get thrown into the game, and they did a good job."
Now, the stage is set for another Tri-County Conference showdown between California and Blair Oaks. Bailey said her Lady Pintos have to be ready to play and come out with guns blazing, no matter who is in uniform.
"Last year, unlike most of the teams we faced last year, (Blair Oaks has) a lot of length. And it's going to be a lot more challenging for Ella and Lauren at the net," Bailey said. "Because of their length, they also have some much stronger blocking that we haven't really faced. It's going to make it more difficult for our hitters to put the ball away, and our defense is going to have to be ready for those blocks and make some digs and plays and not just assume."
Coverage of the matchup between California and Blair Oaks begins Thursday at 5 p.m. from Blair Oaks High School.