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Inopportune mistakes prove costly for Neal

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Timing can be everything in sports. Unfortunately for the W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles volleyball team, the mistakes they made came at inopportune times in their 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-19 loss to the visiting Thomasville Lady Tigers Tuesday.
"We didn't play a bad match. Our girls hustled and they played hard. We just made mistakes at bad times," W.S. Neal coach Kraig Rittenhouse said.
One glaring statistic stands out in the match. In the first two sets, W.S. Neal allowed only nine points through missed serves and Thomasville service aces. That figure swelled to 23 points in the third and fourth sets.
"We're trying to put a complete match together. We've done it twice and those are the two matches we've won," Rittenhouse said. "It seems when we put one area together, another part slips. In this match, it was the service areas."
W.S. Neal (2-13) came from behind on three occasions to claim the first set. Thomasville had a 3-0 lead until a defensive point and a three-point service string by Reshena Young gave the Lady Blue Eagles a 4-3 lead.
Two service aces by Jullian Crutchfield and a kill by Amanda Ziglar were part of a 6-1 run that turned an 11-7 deficit into a 13-12 W.S. Neal lead.
The Lady Blue Eagles had a 21-18 advantage until a defensive point, an ace, two kills and a tipped ball for a point put Thomasville up 23-21.
A key defensive hit from the back row by Brittany Tagudar changed the complexion of the set. That hit kept Thomasville away from a critical 24th point and it set up a three-point service string by Crutchfield that gave the Lady Blue Eagles the victory.
W.S. Neal had the lead for much of set two. Its largest cushion was a 10-6 margin after another defensive hit by Tagudar.
The Lady Blue Eagles were still on top 19-18 until Thomasville took advantage of W.S. Neal hitting errors to take a 24-20 lead. A missed serve by the Lady Tigers at set point gave W.S. Neal one last chance.
An ace by Erica Cardwell followed by an additional point got the Lady Blue Eagles within 24-23, but a kill by Thomasville on the following service ended the set and tied the match.
The serving and receiving errors hit W.S. Neal hard in the third set. Thomasville picked up nine of its points through aces and another five points on missed serves by the Lady Blue Eagles.
The decisive stretch was a seven-point string by Thomasville that extended its lead from 14-9 all the way to 21-9. The Lady Tigers had four straight aces in that string.
W.S. Neal had only one lead in set four, a brief 2-0 edge after a net violation by Thomasville and a point by Abbie Howard.
An 8-1 run, which included four aces, by the Lady Tigers was probably the key stretch in the set. That gave Thomasville an 8-3 lead, but W.S. Neal had a couple of chances to overcome its deficit.
A point by Tagudar got the Lady Blue Eagles within 10-9. Later in the set a three-point string by Young, which included an ace, narrowed Thomasville's lead to 18-16.
The Lady Tigers finished things off with a key five-point string that included an ace and a couple of W.S. Neal hitting errors.
W.S. Neal, which participated in the Escambia County Tournament Saturday, plays at Clarke County Tuesday as part of a quad-match. The Lady Blue Eagles play Clarke County and Sumter County.