Brownwood to face No. 2 Glen Rose Thursday in Dublin

BRECKENRIDGE — At the midway point of the District 5-4A volleyball campaign back on Oct. 3, the Brownwood Lady Lions were on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. However, the day before Halloween the Lady Lions treated themselves to their second consecutive Region I-4A bi-district volleyball championship following their fourth victory in the last six outings, 25-16, 25-22, 22-25, 25-8 over 6-4A third seed Vernon.

“This feels really great,” said Lady Lions second-year head coach Julie Kennedy. “The girls went out and proved why we should be champions today. Last year was the first year we won bi-district in almost 10 years, and we did it again this year. We want to make a habit out of taking bi-district.”

On the offensive end, the 5-4A runner-up Lady Lions (15-20) chalked up 47 kills, led by 17 from Torrey Miller and 11 from Ashlynn Patteson. Mikaela Smith contributed nine followed by Cheyenne Stroope with five, Tyra Cotton with four and Davalynn Monroe with one.

Hadley Monroe distributed 20 assists, Davalynn Monroe recorded 18 and Miller and Stroope contributed one piece.

Patteson also served five of Brownwood's 10 aces, with Stroope and Smith adding two apiece and Miller notching one.

Defensively, Miller's 18 digs were a team-best followed by 14 from Patteson, 11 each from Davalynn Monroe and Annie Gillispie, nine from Smith, eight from Hadley Monroe, seven from Caitlyn Moody, three from Stroope and one from Lakyn Ratliff.

At the net, Stroope tallied three blocks, Miller added two and Cotton and Smith were each credited with one.

“I can't pick out just one area, everything was great,” Kennedy said of the Lady Lions' performance. “From serving to hitting, and they were going after balls I didn't know they would go after necessarily. But we can still improve, we're never perfect, that's just the game of volleyball.”

Brownwood raced out to leads of 10-1 in both the first and final sets.

“For us to get out to a big lead is huge for us mentally,” Kennedy said. “We're a great team, but if we get down it's really hard to pull everybody back up. For us to get the big leads were really important.”

In the opener, three kills from Miller, two from Patteson and one from Davalynn Monroe — coupled with a handful of Vernon miscues — staked Brownwood to an early nine-point advantage. The lead peaked at 13 points on three occasions — 18-5 after an ace by Patteson, 19-6 after a kill by Stroope and 23-10 on an unforced error. Vernon responded with six straight points to shave the Lady Lions' lead to 23-16, but a hitting error and the inability to get a serve by Miller back over the net resulted in the final two Brownwood points.

The final set featured a couple of aces from Smith and two kills and a block from Miller as Brownwood established another nine-point cushion. The lead hit double figures, 14-4, on a kill by Smith and reached 15 points, 19-4, on another Patteson ace. A kill by Miller eventually ended the 17-point set victory and the match.

In the second set, the Lady Lions recorded 11 of the final 16 points to rally for the victory.

“They just fought back,” Kennedy said. “They were just cleaner than the other team. After every set I talk about our unforced errors and how we need to eliminate those. The girls came out and cleaned it up.”

Trailing 17-14, the Lady Lions reeled off five points in a row to reclaim a 19-17 edge. Kills by Miller and Smith were followed by a rotation violation and a net violation by Vernon, then Patteson capped the run with a kill. Tied at 19, Smith drilled consecutive kills to push Brownwood back in front, 21-19. The Lady Lions gave up the next three points to fall behind 22-21, by kills by Stroope and Smith, a double touch on Vernon and another Smith spike resulted in a 4-0 closing run and a Lady Lions' second-set victory.

The night wasn't without its flaws, however, as Brownwood dug its own 10-1 hole in the third set, but almost clawed its way back, twice trimming Vernon's (18-21) lead to two points.

“The third game we had a setback, mostly with our consistency,” Kennedy said. “After the third game I told them we had to play our game and stay in the system. I wanted them to finish it off in four.”

Next up for the Lady Lions is a rematch of last year's area round playoff as the No. 2 Glen Rose Lady Tigers await. The game will be played Thursday in Dublin, though the start time has not been finalized. Glen Rose will be the second Class 4A Top 5 opponent the Lady Lions have faced, as they defeated No. 5 Graham in five sets at Warren Gym Sept. 1.

“They didn't graduate very many players, but neither did we,” Kennedy said of Glen Rose. “I expect them to be tall with big hitters, but I think we'll be more prepared this year. We're just going to focus and get ready for Glen Rose these next few days of practice.”