Although the Tompkins girls’ volleyball team battled back after squandering its first two sets to Bridgeland High on Tuesday evening, the Falcons ultimately lost the deciding fifth set, 22-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 6-15 in a marathon night of back-and-forth play at Tompkins High.
The comeback took its toll, as Tompkins (7-3) seemed sluggish in the fifth set, struggling to score against a stout Bridgeland defense. Tompkins coach Allison Merrell said she was happy to see her team improve its performance against Bridgeland, which beat the Falcons twice by lopsided scores in a tournament last week.
The Falcons, who graduated nine seniors and have seven underclassmen on the roster, are still working to find a solid rotation, as the full varsity hadn't practiced until Monday.
“I just got three players back (Monday) who haven't practiced or played with us,” Merrell said. “I'm rotating, I'm trying to figure out what we're doing, because I don't know yet. We're really, really young, so I feel like between every play, there is a teaching moment with these kids. They want to learn and they want to please, so we have a lot of work to do and they know that.”
Although the two teams ultimately played more than two hours of volleyball, and dealt with a 10-minute delay because of a false fire alarm, the first set turned out to be the pivotal one for Tompkins as it couldn't hold a 16-10 lead. Bridgeland rallied for seven of the next eight points to tie the score at 17 and eventually take the set.
In the second set, Tompkins likewise held another late lead, 18-15. But serving errors and repeated kills in the middle from 6-foot-2 middle blocker Aidan Connor led to Bridgeland winning the set, 25-22.
While sophomore Paris Herrman excelled at covering the floor, the Bridgeland defense also keyed in on her attack attempts. As a result, that left junior Eliana Posada, returning after a year-long absence from the team to recover from injuries, opportunities to score.
Posada ended the third and fourth sets with powerful strikes from the wings of the court. Posada had seven kills in the third set, and four more in the fourth.
“Eli's amazing,” Merrell said. “I can't tell you how happy I am to have her back.”
In addition to Herrman and Posada, junior Gabby Gregorski played well as libero, although she was under constant attack from Bridgeland hitters. Freshman Cindy Tchouangwa also had success hitting from the outside. The lack of cohesion in Tompkins' play mostly showed on the offensive end, as Bridgeland was able to easily counterattack throughout the match.
Merrell noted she was confident in her team's ability to improve, though, as the Falcons have a stretch of games—Friday at Jersey City, hosting Fulshear on Tuesday, and a weekend tournament after that—to build cohesion.
“I'm hoping that by the end of that weekend, we've got something here,” she said.