The Brownwood Lady Lions eclipsed their 2014 season win total and remained unbeaten at Warren Gym this season, but it wasn't without a struggle Friday night against the Class 3A Dublin Lady Lions.
Brownwood dropped the first set, 25-23, then overcame a six-point deficit in the second to squeak by with a 25-23 victory. The Lady Lions then tacked on victories of 25-19 and 25-16 to end the match in four sets.
"It was an ugly game, but we got it done and I'm proud of the girls for finding a way to win," said Lady Lions head coach Lorrie Beelby. "I think we started out trying to be too aggressive and we couldn't hit the ball in. We were getting good passes, good sets, we just couldn't keep our hits in.
"Dublin has some really good hitters and they were just tooling our blocks right and left. They mix up their hits a lot and we couldn't get any solid blocks on them. Plus they're scrappy and they always play hard."
With the win, the Lady Lions are 19-13 on the year as the 2014 Brownwood squad finished with an 18-21 overall mark. In each of Beelby's three seasons, the Lady Lions' win total has climbed.
"I'm really excited," Beelby said. "These kids this year have bought in better than any team I've coached before. They listen, they pay attention and even though some of them are still making some of the same mistakes over and over, for the most part they do what I ask them to do. They're starting to see results from some of the things I'm trying to get them to do and that makes it a lot of fun, especially when they want to show up to practice and keep learning new things. We also have a lot of good JV players, too, so I'm really excited about the future of Brownwood volleyball."
In Friday's victory over Dublin, Jenna Lyons tallied 21 kills for Brownwood followed by Kristen Fuentes with 11, Bailey Randle and Mikaela Smith with seven apiece, Alexis Larrea with three, Payton Kallman with two and Kayla McFarden with one.
Makenzie Simmons dished out 52 assists while Randle, Fuentes and Kallman each finished with three aces, trailed by Lyons and McFarden with two each and Simmons with one.
McFarden finished with 19 digs on the defensive end followed by Lyons with 17, Ward and Simmons with 10 apiece, Randle with nine, Kallman with seven, Fuentes with two and Larrea with one.
At the net, Smith tallied one block, while Lyons and Larrea halved one.
In the opening set, the score was tied 15 times and no team led by more than two points at any point. The lead changed hands only five times, but Dublin tallied the last four points when Brownwood was on the verge of clinching the opening set.
Inconsistency plagued the Lady Lions in the second set as Dublin raced out to a 16-10 lead. Following a Brownwood timeout, the Lady Lions were able to eventually pull even at 17. Another surge from Dublin put the Lady Lions in a 21-18 hole, and another timeout by Beelby resulted in an animated discussion with her team, which was still trying to find its way.
"I usually try to motivate them to play hard, and I didn't think we were playing very hard," Beelby said. "I told them we had to start playing hard or tonight wasn't going to be very fun. We weren't doing the little things right. We weren't closing blocks, we weren't staying low on defense, we weren't talking, we weren't where we were supposed to be on defense, so our defense was really not on tonight.
"During the timeout that's basically what I said. Nobody's doing their job and everyone's getting mad at everyone else for not doing their job, but nobody's doing the job. I told them to do their job, do it well and don't worry about other people worry about themselves."
The Lady Lions received the message loud and clear, tallying seven of the final 11 points in the second set to even the match at 1-1. In the closing run, Fuentes recorded two kills while Kallman and Lyons added one apiece. The spike from Kallman gave Brownwood a 22-21 lead, its first of the entire set.
Brownwood continued to sputter in the third set and trailed by as many as four points early, 12-8. The Lady Lions then reeled off five straight points, aided by two kills from Lyons and an ace from Kallman, to grab a 13-12 advantage. Brownwood tacked on six of the next eight points, completing an 11-3 spurt en route to a 19-15 lead.
Knotted at 11 in the fourth set, an ace from Kallman pushed Brownwood ahead for good as the Lady Lions gradually padded their cushion. A kill from Smith made the score 18-12, while Fuentes, Randle and Larrea chipped in kills down the stretch.
The Lady Lions will shoot for their 20th victory of the season and a 7-0 home record at 6 p.m. Tuesday when District 6-4A rival Graham invades Warren Gym. Brownwood is 1-1 in district competition.