By BRETT MARSHALL
LAKIN — Steve Davidson knew when his volleyball team had an opportunity to defeat a team as highly-regarded as the Lady Mustangs of Southwestern Heights, it needed to grab it and go for it 100 percent.
Julie Tucker knew when her team lost a set to a Hi-Plains League opponent, she needed to get her player's attention.
Both Davidson, the Lakin High volleyball coach, and Tucker, who coaches Heights, were in that exact position Tuesday night after the first set of the final match of the Hi-Plains League quadrangular.
Lakin, playing what Davidson said was one of the best sets of the season, jumped on the Lady Mustangs right from the start en route to a convincing 25-17 victory. Heights, though, showing why they are 30-2 and ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, responded with wins of 25-13 and 25-19 to capture the match and finish the night unbeaten in its three matches.
"We've had times where we're playing really well and times when we're playing really bad," said Davidson of his Lady Broncs, who are now 17-13. "We get a mental block but Heights is definitely as athletic as anybody we face and they have size all over the place."
In that first set, it was a combination of strong play from seniors Allie Jones and Keyton McAtee, along with junior Krista Yakel and sophomore Darrie Rogers that led the Broncs to their early lead.
"We were able to get to the deep corners of their court for points because they block so well that you have to go over them," Davidson said of Heights' tall front line of the 5-foot-11-inch senior tandem of Deni Jacobs and Heidi Brown. "We battled but we made too many little mistakes and you can't do that against good teams. When you have the chance you have to take advantage. We didn't."
For Tucker, whose team has yet to lose to a Hi-Plains League opponent, the early set loss was a wakeup call.
"All night we played what I would call mediocre volleyball," Tucker said of her team. "Even though the girls knew Lakin would come at them, it was still difficult to get started. It took a big rear-end kicking to get their attention."
Lakin was still hanging tough in the second set with the score tied at six when Heights went on a 6-0 run, eventually pulling away to leads of 15-8 and 20-11 before closing out the set with the final three points. It was even more dominating for the Mustangs in the third set as they raced to a 9-3 lead, built it to 20-11 and then held off a mini-rally by the Broncs who pulled to within five at 24-19.
Heights' only two losses came early in the season at the Liberal Invitational where they lost to 5A Liberal and 6A Dodge City, both of whom have strong teams this season.
"We learned from those losses and we learned that we're not good enough to beat good teams if we're not playing on top of our game," said Tucker. "We have played like that (first set) a lot this year and been able to get away with it. It was a huge match for our confidence to come back because if they win a set, then win a match, they know they can beat us."
In earlier matches, Lakin dropped Stanton County 25-22, 25-13 and Sublette 25-22, 27-25 while Heights posted wins over Stanton County (25-14, 25-13) and Sublette (25-12, 25-17). Sublette captured the other late match over Stanton County (25-15, 25-19).
The Hi-Plains League tournament will be next for the 10 schools on Saturday. It will be plaed at Stanton County High School in Johnson.