Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Lovejoy overcomes key loss to sweep into Class 3A volleyball final
SAN MARCOS, Texas — As the Lovejoy volleyball team began its 3-0 win over Sinton in the state semifinals Friday, just as much attention was focused on the bench as it on the court.
Lovejoy struggled. The three-time defending Class 3A state champion didn’t look like its usual self as the first game unfolded, and for a good reason: Junior middle blocker Ebony Nwanebu was on the bench. Not just on the bench, but in a warm-up pullover.
She never entered the match.
“Ebony is a coach’s decision this weekend,” Lovejoy coach Ryan Mitchell said. “She’s eligible to play but won’t be playing.”
Nwanebu, who is committed to Southern Cal, has been a huge part of Lovejoy’s attack this season, and her absence put extra pressure on senior Andie Malloy, who led the Leopards’ offense throughout the match.
Lovejoy allowed Sinton to go out to a 13-7 lead in the first game. Mitchell said that his team looked nothing like a three-time state champion, and it made mistakes both at the net and the service line before coming back to win, 25-23.
Malloy dominated in the second game, when Lovejoy began to look dominant. After pulling ahead to an early 11-2 lead, Lovejoy never let up, winning 25-9.
“I think we kind of woke a sleeping giant there in Game 2,” Sinton coach Jane Kieschnick said.
Sinton (30-11) was never able to recover. Its defense fell apart in the second game and failed to improve in the third, and Malloy’s consistency at the net continued. The Leopards took the game easily, 25-15, and with it the match.
Once Lovejoy settled into its groove, the Leopards’ 47th win played out as it should have on paper given their better record and size advantage. In the end, they looked like a team for which a state championship berth has become an expectation.