ABILENE — The trials and tribulations one might anticipate from a varsity volleyball squad built almost entirely of newcomers were on full display during the Brownwood Lady Lions’ first matches of the season at the 16-team Bev Ball Classic Friday.
With only three of the 12 players on the roster having previous varsity experience, head coach Mary Steed’s young Lady Lions showcased their potential as they overcame a shaky start and rallied for a three-set win over the 5A Mansfield Timberview Lady Wolves.
Brownwood played with more consistency in its second outing, but the Lady Lions were swept by a much tougher 5A program — the Richardson Lady Eagles — in a pair of close matches.
The day concluded with Sweetwater snatching a 23-25, 25-20, 25-23 win over Brownwood.
The Lady Lions (1-2) will resume tournament play at 9 a.m. today at Abilene Cooper High School in the bracket for third- and fourth-place pool finishers. Brownwood will play either Abilene Cooper, Mansfield Legacy, El Paso Chapin or Graham.
The bracket’s consolation and third-place matches will be held at 2 p.m. and the championship match will start at 3:15 p.m.
In their opening match, the Lady Lions broke an 18-all tie by scoring the final seven points to upend Timberview, 25-18, in a third-set tiebreaker.
Julie Kennedy’s kill pushed the Lady Lions in front, 19-18, then Flynn Harrell delivered another to give Brownwood a 20-18 advantage. Timberview followed with a pair of unforced errors and Harrell drilled another spike to increase the lead to 23-18, which led to a Lady Wolves’ timeout.
Timberview was unable to regain its composure after the break, and two more miscues allowed the Lady Lions to notch the victory.
The second set seesawed back and forth before the Lady Lions appeared on the verge of victory after taking a 23-17 lead. Timberview had an answer, though, as it scored six consecutive points and twice forced Brownwood into timeouts as it pulled even at 23-all.
But the Lady Wolves self-destructed as a serve into the net gave Brownwood its 24th point, then an errant spike sailed too deep, allowing the Lady Lions to collect a 25-23 victory.
In the first set, the Lady Lions raced out to a 6-2 lead, but seven service errors doomed Brownwood in a 25-18 loss.
Timberview caught the Lady Lions and evened the score at 9-all, then reeled off seven straight points to seize control, 16-9. A spike from Harrell got the Lady Lions back to within three points, 17-14, but they came no closer as Brownwood did not find its rhythm until later in the match.
Against Richardson, the Lady Lions found themselves down 4-1 early in the opening set, but quickly shifted the momentum behind Harrell’s blistering serves.
Trailing 6-5, Brownwood scored six straight points and half of those were the result of serves the Lady Eagles could not get back over the net. Ta’Kenda Cotton also added a spike and a punch for points.
Richardson responded with its own run and turned an 11-6 deficit into a 14-12 lead, which forced Brownwood into a timeout.
The Lady Lions then rallied and tied the set five more times — at 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22 — before Cotton’s spike sailed long to give the Lady Eagles a 23-22 lead. Richardson then made the most of the opportunity as the Lady Lions’ service reception and passing broke down, then an errant spike resulted in a 25-22 Brownwood loss.
After jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the second set, Brownwood found itself down 22-18 before making a late charge.
A tip from Cotton closed the gap to 22-19, then LaCresha Williams — who returned from a twisted ankle in the first set — served a pair of aces. Richardson couldn’t get Williams’ third serve back over the net, which allowed Brownwood to tie the score at 22-all.
A quick tip on the next serve pushed Richardson back in front, 23-22, and the Lady Eagles were able to add the final two points to wrap up the victory.