Jessica Casey escorted her volleyball team out of the Merced College gym with a head full of points she wanted to address following a 25-23, 20-25, 25-14, 26-24 loss to Reedley.
Instead, the MC volleyball coach turned her squad's attention to its body language.
"The players were standing away from the coaches," Casey said. "They were standing away from each other. I told them: 'That's our No. 1 problem. We still haven't come together as a team.' "
Casey's observation was both poignant and scary as the Blue Devils closed out the first half of Central Valley Conference play on Wednesday evening.
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Inconsistency plagued MC to start the season, but Casey thought the team had turned the page -- having won three of its last four contests.
The Blue Devils (3-4 CVC, 8-8 overall) were in position to grab sole possession of third place in the CVC, but a scrappy Reedley squad (3-4, 7-8) had other plans.
Led by its two big guns -- Mariah Roby (16 kills) and Antoinette Johnson (10 kills, 4 blocks) -- Reedley stormed out to a 17-9 lead in the opening game.
Needing an emotional pick-me-up, the Lady Devils turned to Beth Flowers and Sharde' Carter for energy.
The sophomore duo complied with some booming spikes and massive blocks.
Carter (6 kills) and Flowers (8 kills) rallied the troops, helping MC make a contest of Game 1 and win Game 2.
Just as Casey thought her real team was emerging, MC inexplicably came out flat for Game 3.
Reedley took the third game 25-14 and the Lady Devils never recovered.
"We just didn't play as a team," Flowers said. "You could see we don't trust each other out on the court yet."