AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: East Central.
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The schedule was favorable as a final test to prepare for East Central for the onset of district play.
The Hornets (15-16) played two of the area’s best Catholic school programs Sept. 15 and Sept. 18 to prepare for the District 28-6A season, which begins Sept. 25 at Corpus Christi Carroll. East Central split the matches, winning Sept. 15 at Incarnate Word (15-16) 14-25, 25-21, 25-16, 30-28 and falling 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 Sept. 18 to Antonian (22-14).
“We just have to work on our consistency,” first-year East Central coach Jordan Pinson said. “I feel pretty good about district. If we play our game and do the things we need to, we’ll be just fine.”
Although the Hornets figure to be a 28-6A title contender, along with Corpus Christi Ray, the district’s balance indicates that they needed to prepare for the grind ahead.
“We want to play teams that are at the top level,” Pinson said. “We were able to beat Incarnate Word. We want to play teams where we have to be at our best, so we can be ready for district.”
East Central entered the match against the highly regarded Apaches on a roll, having won eight of its previous 11 matches, but had a bit of a setback at Antonian.
“We kind of had an off night,” Pinson said. “We just weren’t taking advantage of opportunities on offense.”
At Incarnate Word, the Hornets improved from game to game as senior setter Kaylin Mills dished 30 assists. Sophomore Skeler Embry led the offense with 12 kills.
“I think our confidence was much higher in the second and third games,” said Mills, who had a pair of important kills in Game 2. “We were talking together and playing together. It took us a while to get warmed up, but once we did it was great.”
The host Shamrocks took a 28-27 lead in Game 4 on an ace from Sofia Resendiz and threatened to extend the match. But the Hornets’ defense helped force two consecutive Incarnate Word errors and Lubianski (11 kills, 3 blocks) finished the match with a kill.
Casey Cosper produced 19 digs for the Hornets. Sara Haycraft had a pair of well-timed blocks, one of which gave East Central a 26-25 lead in Game 4.
“We all like each other and get along off the court,” Mills said. “For me (as a setter), whatever’s working, I keep doing it. If someone’s off, I move it around. I try to kill it every once in a while. I like doing it.”
Embry has a team-best 208 kills. She and Sara Haycraft have 33.5 blocks apiece. Lubianski, at 6-foot-3, has 153 kills and leads East Central in blocks with 70.
Mills has served a team-high 34 aces to go with 414 assists and 59 kills. Cosper has recorded 177 disgs, 131 kills and 7.5 blocks. Kirsten Bradley leads the team in digs with 236t.
“It has been an adjustment, with the kids getting to know me and each other,” Pinson said. “Once they’ve gotten used to me, they’re finally starting to come together.”
Pinson coached at Luling last year. He said East Central’s entire athletic program was a draw for him.
“I really like the way East Central does things,” Pinson said. “They have high expectations, but they know they can be met.”