EAGLES 3 MUSTANGS 2
EAST LAKE – Even the coach wasn’t quite sure how East Lake did what it did Tuesday night.
Explanation or not, the Eagles pulled off an improbable comeback despite falling behind 0-2 against Class 6A District 5 foe Mitchell.
Not only did East Lake need to reel off three straight sets, the Eagles trailed 19-11 in the third before coming to life and roaring back.
“Tonight was more about overcoming a deficit and overcoming the environment,” East Lake Coach Terry Small said. “They didn’t believe in themselves for a while, but they kept working and they got the victory. I don’t know how we won but we did.”
Victory sure didn’t seem likely midway through the match-changing third set. To go up 2-0, Mitchell (6-4, 2-1) used a 9-0 run in the first set and slowly pulled away in the second. The Mustangs controlled the night with the play of Elizabeth McDonald, Ava Connors and Jordan Moore at the net combined with some stellar defense in the back from Marysa Connors.
East Lake wasn’t doing itself any favors in the early going, either. “Our errors were enormous,” Small said. “We’re a good, dynamic, hard-working team, but if we don’t get the points that we should get it’s going to be tough.”
Sending balls into the net or out of bounds gave Mitchell easy points and the presence of McDonald and Ava Connors at the net began to rattle East Lake’s attack.
“Their blocking, though, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to them,” Small said. “That’s what got into my hitters’ heads, their blocking. That and they played great defense.”
Momentum began to shift midway through the third set when Small called a time out with East Lake trailing 18-8. The Eagles regrouped and responded by going on a 10-2 run that got them to within two at 20-18. Tied 23-23, East Lake picked up a huge point thanks to Olivia Thompson getting her hands up to dig a hard Jordan Moore spike. The Eagles eventually won that set 27-25.
East Lake scored 16 of the final 18 points in the fourth set to win 25-16 and set up the pivotal fifth. The teams went back and forth before East Lake scored four straight points to go ahead 13-11. The Eagles didn’t give the lead back and won 15-13.
Thompson (16 kills) and Olivia “Texas” Aniol (11 kills) led the East Lake attack Tuesday night and Aniol added five blocks.
“It’s a very big midseason win,” Small said. “We’ve already played Wiregrass and Sunlake, so now we’re set up to be seeded pretty well for districts, which is nice.”
East Lake’s won five straight and is 6-1 on the year and 4-0 in league play. Gaither remains the only District 6A-5 team the Eagles haven’t faced.
Mitchell’s now dropped four in a row after starting the year 6-0. The previous three losses, however, came during Calvary Christian’s competitive 2019 Warrior Invitational.
East Lake wraps up this week’s slate of matches on the road tomorrow night against rival Countryside.
Mitchell gets another district road test on Thursday when it heads to Sunlake.
M - 25 – 25 – 25 – 16 – 13 --- 2
EL - 17 – 20 – 27 – 25 – 15 --- 3