Brownwood Lady Lions third-year volleyball head coach Jackie Lang’s season debut was almost greeted with a stirring comeback, but the Glen Rose Lady Tigers instead spoiled the “welcome back” party Tuesday night at Warren Gym.
The Lady Lions came up on the short end of a 25-14, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, though Brownwood was on the verge of forcing a tie-breaking fifth set before a Glen Rose surge ended the match.
“Obviously a win would have been better than a loss tonight, but we did fight back and make them earn wins in Games 3 and 4, unlike 1 and 2,” said Lang, who missed the first month of the season due to maternity leave. “We still have a lot of unforced errors that we need to work on, but I’m still proud of the way they fought.”
Brooklyn Stewart paced the Brownwood offensive attack with 14 kills followed by Katie Pevehouse with eight, Devin Lyons with seven and one apiece by Makayla Hight, Paxton Vaughn and Kayli Waddle.
Naomi Rosato was credited with 19 assists, while 15 were dished out by Vaughn. Mabree Moore served three aces, while Pevehouse added two and Rosato chipped in one.
Defensively, Stewart notched a team-high four blocks trailed by two each from Pevehouse and Vaughn and one apiece from Lyons, Waddle and Cynthia Ibarra.
Though the Lady Lions sport just a 4-13 record at this point, Lang has been pleased with the development of the team in her absence, as assistant Melanie Kunkel filled in as head coach for the first month.
“What I needed most was to have a set lineup and for the most part we’re there,” Lang said. “We need one or two more people to step up, be aggressive and be on fire a little more often. Other than that, we’re right where we need to be. The girls have their legs under them and confidence wise they’ve come a long way. Some of the girls didn’t want the ball to come anywhere near them and now they’re flying across the floor and making awesome plays. We’re heading in the right direction.”
In the first and second set losses to Glen Rose, Lang attributed jitters to the Lady Lions’ shaky performance.
“We had a lack of intensity at the beginning and I think a little bit of that was based on practice yesterday,” Lang said. “I think they’re a little nervous that I’m back on the sideline and they needed a couple of games to realize nothing has changed. It’s still the same game and still the same people around them. After that, they relaxed a little bit and that let them play a little bit harder.”
The third set victory for the Lady Lions began with the first five points going to Brownwood — including two on tips by Stewart and Waddle, one on a spike from Vaughn and one on a stellar serve from Rosato.
Back-to-back kills from Lyons pushed the lead to 8-3, while an ace by Moore — followed by a handful of Glen Rose service errors and a kill by Pevehouse — increased the advantage to 14-5.
The Lady Lions led 18-9 before Glen Rose closed to within five points, but a kill by Stewart stopped the Lady Tiger rally and gave Brownwood a 19-13 edge. A block from Stewart, followed by a kill from Lyons, increased the edge to 21-14 and resulted in a Glen Rose time out, but Brownwood strolled to the finish line.
During the final set, the Lady Lions climbed out of a 12-6 hole with a 12-4 run that was highlighted by a Pevehouse kill, which gave Brownwood an 18-16 advantage.
Blocks from Pevehouse and Stewart later allowed the Lady Lions to draw even at 20-all and 21-all, while Stewart and Waddle teamed up for a block that pushed Brownwood back in front, 22-21.
A hitting error on Glen Rose increased Brownwood’s lead to 23-21, but the Lady Tigers chalked up the final four points to snatch the victory.
The Lady Lions return to action at 5 p.m. Friday at Kennedale.
“I was most impressed with our defense tonight,” Lang said. “We were pretty scrappy and got up a lot of balls we don’t normal get up. We still need to work on our serving, though. I’m disappointed in our serving percentage. But we’ll work on the little things and let the big things take care of themselves.”