by Cody Thorn
Legacy 16-1 Adidas and Houston Juniors Volleyball 16 Elite ran across each other in a tournament earlier this season in Orlando.
The Michigan-based Legacy program won two sets to take that showdown, but a rematch happened Sunday morning at the Kansas City Convention Center at the Triple Crown National Invitational Tournament.
The outcome didn’t change in the new locale as Legacy won, but needed three sets to dispatch the Texans this time around.
HJV and Legacy played a close first set in Orlando before Legacy rolled in the second set. The scenario the second time was similar, but this time the Houston Juniors took the opening set, 25-23.
Legacy rolled to a win in the second set, 25-12 and rallied to win the third, 15-12. They will take on 1st Alliance on Monday in the 16 Elite quarterfinals.
“That third set, I will tell you, we have two good defensive specialists and they were able to put a good touch on passes and Harper (Murray) was able to put the ball down,” Legacy coach Rick Cottrill said.
The Houston Juniors jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the decisive third set, which included an ace by Sydney Jordan and then a combo block by Arissa Smith and Ariel Francis.
Cottrill called a timeout to regroup Legacy, but the Houston team kept scoring points. Jordan had a dig that went across the court and fell in by the post and then Mary-Katherine Preston had a kill, which made it 8-4.
Legacy rallied to tie it at 8-8 and later at 9-9 and 10-10. The lead switched for the final time at 11-10 and grew to 14-10. Four of the five points in that stretch were kills by Murray, who finished with 21.
“I think we have really good leadership in her and we all rally around her,” said teammate Sarah Vellucci of Murray.
The Houston Juniors cut the deficit to 14-12 on a block by Preston but the game ended on a return error.
“I’m really proud of them for coming back after being down 7-3 and 8-4 in the third set,” Cottrill said. “We wanted to be able to defend our serve-receive better. We didn’t do that well in the first set. We were able to defend the serve well and we did what we were capable of doing.”
Murray had six of her 21 kills in the third set, more than the combined total of the Houston Juniors in that set.
“We did a really good job of coming to the middle and passing,” said Murray, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter that is uncommitted.
The Houston Juniors built a five-point advantage in the first set, 12-7, but saw Legacy rally and eventually take a 19-18 lead on a kill by Murray. Cindy Tchouangwa responded with a kill to tie the game and Smith followed with another to make it 21-20. A block by Murray and a kill that sailed out of bounds by Houston gave its final lead, though the game would be tied at 22-22 and 23-23.
A kill by 6-foot-2 Piper Stephenson gave the Houston Juniors the lead for good in the opening set.
“They are hard to stop when they pass the ball well and we couldn’t stop them,” Cottrill said.
Legacy raced out to a 7-2 to lead in the second set and had control throughout, pushing the advantage to as high as 11 points three different times and expanded to 14 points behind an ace by Abby Reck and a block by Laurece Abraham.
The Houston Juniors rallied late with three straight points after that but only trimmed the margin to 24-12 before an error ended the second set.