When one of their better players went down with an unfortunate injury last night, that appeared to suck all of the life out of the Scottsdale Vixens, and now, they too find themselves in a do-or-die situation come Friday.
The pennant-winning Lady Defenders turned back the 14-time defending champions, Vixens, last night, winning in four sets at the D.W. Davis Gymnasium. They prevailed, 19-25, 25-21, 25-13 and 25-20, to even up the New Providence Volleyball Association’s (NPVA) women’s championship series at two games apiece and force a decisive game five on Friday.
Vixens’ middle attacker Krystel “Kizzy” Brown appeared to twist her knee on a diving play in the second set – an unfortunate injury that the Vixens hope isn’t a major one and one that won’t keep her out of the pivotal game five on Friday. In the previous three games, she was the Vixens’ second leading scorer behind Malinda Bastian. With her out of the line-up, the Vixens lost three straight sets last night, and are now left floundering for answers. The final game in the best-of-five series is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
“It really went bad for us when Kizzy went down. The team never recuperated and everything went downhill for us after that,” said Vixens’ Head Coach McKlyn Rolle. “We have to put that behind us, come out here on Friday and play defense, pass the ball and trust each other. Once we do that, our offense will come around and we will be alright.”
Lady Defenders’ Head Coach Jason Saunders said that it was unfortunate what happened to Brown, but he is of the opinion that they had the match under control in any event.
“When you look at the score when Kizzy went down, we were beginning to win that set so I don’t know if that’s really the turning point,” said Saunders. “That more or less deflated them somewhat but we are missing players also. At the end of the day, you have to come out and play and we did that tonight.”
After Brown’s injury, the Lady Defenders went on to win the second set, 25-21, to even up the match at one set apiece and then cruised in the third set. Still, the Vixens hung around. They were in control in the fourth set, looking poised to force a decisive fifth set, when everything started to go wrong for them. The Lady Defenders reeled off 10 straight points to take a commanding 23-16 lead in that set. A couple critical calls went against the Vixens and they never recovered. With Brown’s sister, Cheryse Bain, serving, the Vixens scored four points in a row, but then the Lady Defenders closed out the set and the match with two straight points.
“For the most part, we played a much better well-rounded game tonight. In the previous games, we made a lot of mental mistakes and we cleaned that up a lil bit tonight,” said Lady Defenders’ Coach Saunders. “In order for us to continue to win, we have to continue to play mistake-free volleyball. I think we could play a lil bit better, and hopefully we do that on Friday.
“That Vixens team is a very experienced team. When you go on a run against them, you can’t afford to make mistakes to get them going. We did a wonderful job of keeping our momentum and minimizing our mistakes tonight. On Friday, we have to have an excellent game of serving and receiving. Once we do that, we will stand a better chance of winning. Hopefully we could do that.”
Vixens’ Coach Rolle said the 10 straight points in the middle of the fourth set took them completely out of contention. They were leading 16-13 in the fourth set up to that point. Even at 16-17, they appeared to break service on a kill from Bain, but the referee ruled that a Vixens’ player was over the line, thereby awarding the point to the Lady Defenders. They went on to score five more points in a row to take a commanding 23-16 lead in that set.
“When a team is on a run like that, you just have to bear down and focus on the fundamentals and that’s passing the ball,” said Vixens’ Coach Rolle. “We weren’t passing and then the hitters weren’t putting the ball down. There was a communication issue and we just lost it from there,” he added.
Je’Nae Saunders paced the Lady Defenders with 16 points, 14 of which came on spikes. She added 10 digs. Noarie Proverbs added 12 kills and three service winners. Sari Albury and Latavia Braynen had two blocks apiece and Braynen added nine digs. Terae Sweeting had five aces, and Leandrea Armbrister had 51 successful sets.
The Vixens were led by Bastian with a game-high 19 points – 14 kills, three aces and two blocks. She also had eight digs. Q’Jannis Wilson had nine kills, Bain had two digs, Brown had a block before going down with an injury and Shevaughn Woodside had 30 successful sets.
Game five is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
The result of game four of the men’s championship series between the three-time defending champions National Fence Intruders and the Defenders was unavailable up to press time. The Defenders led that best-of-five series two games to one going into game four last night.