Last year, Midway’s head volleyball coach Ryan Porter unfortunately broke his hip, and he’s still walking around with a pronounced limp.
Everything else for Midway was painless on Tuesday.
The Pantherettes served aggressively, dialing up 21 aces as they cruised past crosstown rival Waco High, 25-10, 25-7, 25-10, in District 11-6A competition at the Midway High Arena. Though it’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for Midway (17-15 overall, 3-1 district), Porter’s team has located a rhythm and sits in a tie with Duncanville for second place in the 11-6A standings behind Mansfield.
“We need to get a little more consistent, but I think we’re playing well,” Porter said. “Offensively, we’re starting to click. We’ve got a great group of seniors that are kind of leading us a little bit, and some really good juniors.”
Waco High, which is breaking in a new head coach in Korae Crain and seems destined to dip down to Class 5A in the next round of UIL realignment, stands on the other end of the spectrum. The Lady Lions are still hunting for their first volleyball win of 2021, and they struggled to pick up the rotation on many of Midway’s heavy-topspin deliveries.
They did not, however, lack for hustle. That showed from the very start, as they crashed into a three-person pileup while chasing one Midway spike in the first set.
Midway was riding the momentum of a four-set win over a good Waxahachie team from last Friday, the kind of outcome that can propel a program to an elevated level of confidence. Against the Lady Lions (0-4 in district), they breezed to expansive leads in every set. A host of Midway’s regulars all played on the varsity last season, and that experience and familiarity is starting to coalesce.
“It helped a ton, especially coming off a very short year for them the previous season,” Porter said. “They didn’t get a full year to develop. I think we showed some of that early on with our short competition season. They’re definitely playing pretty well right now.”
Senior Lauren Johnson thumped a match-high 13 kills while hitting a video game-like .812 in her attacks. Gabby Jones contributed five kills and Trinity Alcorn and Miriam Williams punched four apiece for Midway, which hit .467 on the night.
But the Pantherettes didn’t need a lot of volley finishers, because there just weren’t that many points to put away. Midway scored so much from the service line with its heat-seeking rockets that any kind of extended rally was rare.
Alcorn whipped in four straight aces in a run of five straight Midway points to close the second set, including that dirtiest of deliveries, the well-struck serve that skims the top of the net and then drops over before the defense can even react.
“We serve very aggressively. That’s why we miss so many,” Porter said. “We look at ace to error ratio (21 to 8). I could care less if they make 100 percent of their serves. If they’re not aggressive at our level, the ball gets punished by someone else. We serve pretty tough. We live and die by it.”
Alcorn led all players with six aces, while Payton Porter — the coach’s daughter — whacked four aces.
Waco High’s Xiara Berry and Brianna Dillard halted Midway’s runs with the occasional redirection of an overpass or a line-hugging attack. But the Pantherettes never let those Lady Lion highlights build on top of one another, and they closed the match in fitting fashion in the third set, with an ace from Kennedy Bryant.
Ryan Porter said he thinks his squad is fully capable of winning out to close the regular season and potentially earning a share of the district title with Mansfield. Next up on the docket is a clash with Duncanville on Friday, which is tied with Midway in the district standings. That’ll be a big one, for sure.
Porter’s growing optimism can be traced to the presence of Midway’s senior leaders, who have seen a little bit of everything over these past couple of seasons.
“Lauren Johnson’s doing an amazing job right now in the middle,” Porter said. “So is Gabby Jones, she’s doing amazing, and Payton Porter and without a doubt, Kara Wachsmann (at libero). … Hopefully we can win out, and get a share of the district title, that would be good.”
No. 1 Crawford 3, Rapoport 0
Top-ranked Crawford spanked 23 service aces to squash the Ravens in District 12-2A action, 25-1, 25-6, 25-8.
Kylie Ray had it working from the line, spinning in a match-best 11 aces. McKenna Post chipped in six aces for the Lady Pirates, now 28-6 overall and 4-0 in district play.
Katie Warden drilled 11 kills in 18 swings on an efficient attacking night for Crawford, which hit .521 as a team. Crawford will travel to Chilton on Friday before a much-anticipated showdown with No. 2-ranked Bosqueville next Tuesday.
No. 15 West 3, Riesel 0
RIESEL — The Lady Trojans played some stiff defense at the net to send back Riesel in District 17-3A action, 25-10, 25-7, 25-11.
West ups its record to 22-8 and 4-0 in district with its seventh straight win overall. The Lady Trojans play Whitney Friday before a pair of tussles with state-ranked district foes No. 12 Troy and No. 7 Lorena next week.