BANGS— Despite struggling for much of the district and pre-district play, the Bangs Lady Dragons lived up to expectations against rival Early in a four-set losing effort 25-19, 27-29, 25-20 and 25-15.

Looking to rebound from their first district loss of the season to Eastland, the Early Lady Longhorns looked to get back on the right track Saturday but had to overcome a strong challenge from the Lady Dragons to do so.

“It’s a Bangs-Early rivalry. No kidding, before the game I saw a lady with a T-shirt that read HORNS DOWN with our little logo upside down (as a sign of distress),” Early coach Natalie Whitewood said. “That is what happens with a rivalry. That is what kind of game it’s going to be. It could be the better team coming out on bottom. We just kept pushing at them. I have told my girls all year long that we have to keep pounding at teams.”

Both teams battled well into the first set, but Early came away late by capitalizing on a few Bangs mistakes. A tip by outside hitter Hope Boswell set up match point, then a block by middle blocker Ellie Ryan gave Early a 25-19 victory. The Lady Longhorns had the momentum Early in game two, but Bangs middle blocker Trenedi Deal lifted her team back into contention on a pair of tips and a block two pull the Lady Dragons within two and both teams traded point for point until a net ball in extra sets allowed a kill by Bangs senior outside hitter Kenzie Baker to decide the game.

“I’m so proud of them. They left it all on the court,” Bangs coach Callie Molloy said. “They covered well, they communicated well and they really played as a unit. When they give all of their effort as a team, win or lose, that’s a good game. They have come so far. We met Early at a tournament in the beginning of the season and just from comparing that game they are a night and day different team.”

Game three seemed destined for extra sets as well, but Early again capitalized on its experience and turned the tables on Bangs after a few costly mistakes. A two-hit penalty, an ace by setter Taylor Summers and an errant show allowed Boswell to set up match-point on a kill, then an ace by Alexa Portillo sealed it 25-20. In game four, Bangs jumped out to an early lead on kills by Baker and middle hitter Kyra Smith, but the Lady Longhorns again took advantage of Lady Dragon miscues an ended the game scoring on a errant serve and two-hit penalty.

“I don’t know what happened in game two,” Ryan said. “It got in our heads and we started yelling at each other, but as soon as game two was over we talked about what we needed to do and everybody was fine in game three. Game two gave them a lot of confidence. We’re rivals and they always bring their A game with they face us, but so do we. I’m proud of how far we’ve come. We’re falling behind just a little, but we can clean it up.”