Adversity had set in against the Nixon-Smiley Lady Mustangs as they fell behind the Cole Lady Cougars, two sets to one, at home Friday, Oct. 15.
Senior starting setter Christiana Ramirez had to be helped off the court in the first set with an injury with Nixon-Smiley up 9-4.
The Lady Mustangs would hold off Cole in a 26-24 opening set thriller, thanks to junior utility player Madisyne Rice, who stepped up into Ramirez’ spot, as well as junior libero Kaidence Pecina, who made several big defensive stands. However, the hosts still dropped the next two games each by a score of 25-20.
Ramirez made a valiant return from her earlier tumble for the fourth and fifth sets and dished out 16 assists in those two sets, providing a spark that carried Nixon-Smiley to a 26-24 win in the fourth set and a 15-8 win in the finale, giving the Lady Mustangs a 3-2 victory that helped clinch a playoff berth.
“Our win over Cole on Friday night was very much a team effort,” said Coach Loraine Zuniga, whose team improved to 25-11 overall and, more importantly, 9-2 in District 26-3A. “We had some of our young players really step up when our setter went down in the first set. Our utility player, Madisyne Rice, did a great job running the offense. Our libero, Kaidence Pecina, was all over the court and made some big defensive plays when we needed it.
“It meant a lot to the team to be able to clinch a playoff berth at home. We are all very excited to be moving into postseason play!”
Rice would rack up 21 assists in three sets after being pressed into the setter role while Pecina ended the night with 31 digs, followed by junior Natalee Mendez, who had 23, and Rice, who had 18 digs.
Three Lady Mustangs would rack up double-digit kill counts, led by senior Abby Fox, who had 12. Fellow senior Greenlee Houseton and Mendez each had 10 and Rice had six.
At the service line, Ramirez and Kendall Amaya each had two aces.
Nixon-Smiley plays its last home game of the season on Parents Night on Tuesday, Oct. 19, against Stockdale. The Lady Mustangs already are guaranteed second place in district and will advance to play the third-place team in District 25-3A, which will be either Ingram Tom Moore or Comfort.