By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
ELIDA — Momentum from two playoff wins helped Melrose earn nine of Thursday’s first 10 points. Rest and homecourt advantage helped Elida claim 74 of the next 116.
Elida recovered from a 9-1 deficit in the first game and had little problem after that in claiming a 25-21, 25-17, 25-13 victory in Thursday night’s District 3-1A playoff match at Elida High School.
Elida (9-7) will face Fort Sumner at 5 p.m. Saturday for the district championship. Elida showed a little bit of rust early, but recovered behind a 14-5 run featuring three aces by Nicole Jasso.
“We were fine until Jasso rolled off that string of serves,” Melrose coach Jason Lee said. “She serves hard. She got us pretty rattled and from there we never recovered.”
From then on, Elida gained confidence and momentum that would take them through an hour-long match.
“We just pulled our heads together,” said Elida junior Alicia Smith, who had five service aces. “We keep saying, ‘Win the next point,’ and go out there and attack them.”
Elida coach Darrell Chenault credited the win to strong service and being rested all week.
“I think our serving was pretty good,” Chenault said. “(Melrose is) at a disadvantage walking into here, playing three matches in a row.”
Elida got five service aces from Jasso and four from Lindsay Ward. That might have made the difference against Melrose, which could never gain more than a one-point lead after the first game.
“We could have won tonight,” Lee said. “Elida played well. They were prepared and we came up short.”
Now it’s Elida that becomes the road team. Smith is looking forward to the matchup, though she admits the defending state champs present a challenge.
“They’re a good team,” Smith said. “They pass the ball well and they hit the ball well. They’re very athletic. We’re ready to play them. They make us better players (because of the challenge).”
Chenault is hopeful his team can keep the momentum and overcome what he calls a mental block against the Vixens.
“I’ve told the girls we take a step forward against everybody else, then we take a step back against Fort Sumner,” Chenault said. “We’ve got to step forward.”