Brownwood and Class 6A Abilene High battled through the maximum five sets, all decided by the minimum two points, as the Lady Eagles escaped Warren Gym Tuesday night with a narrow victory over the Lady Lions.
The Lady Lions won the first set 25-23, dropped the second and third 25-23 and 26-24, came back to take the fourth set, 26-24, and fell in the tiebreaker, 15-13.
“We were pretty evenly matched,”said Lady Lions first-year head coach Jessica Withrow. “We’d find their weaknesses and they’d find ours. We were going back and forth, back and forth. I think it came to who had a little more confidence and which team had been playing together a little bit longer. We’ve been together for a month with a new coach, so we’re learning pretty quick.”
The match was the second consecutive five-set outing for the Lady Lions, who also came up in short in Graham this past Friday.
“It’s two games in a row now that we’ve gone five, and they’ve been very long games, but I’ve just been so impressed with the heart and hustle of these girls and being able to push it to five sets and not giving up even though it’s going on three hours of playing,” Withrow said. “They’re showing they’re in shape and still able to finish strong.”
Torrey Miller was again all over the court for Brownwood, netting 28 kills, 24 digs, 15 assists and an ace.
Olivia Fowler also helped ignite the offense with 12 kills followed by Gracie Boswell, Aleyia Cotton and Lindsey Larose with five apiece, Katelyn Windham with two and Annie Gillispie with one.
Davalynn Monroe served four of Brownwood’s seven aces while Cotton and Hadley Monroe — who finished with a team-best 30 assists — also got into the act with an ace each.
On the defensive end, Davalynn Monroe chipped in 24 digs, Gillispie finished with 19, Caitlyn Moody notched 18, Hadley Monroe tallied nine, Cotton and Lakyn Ratliff both logged seven, Fowler contributed six, Boswell collected three and Larose was credited with one.
At the net, Larose chalked up five blocks with Cotton adding a pair.
Trailing 17-16 in the opening set, the Lady Lions used an 8-2 run to seize control, 24-19. Brownwood relied on a balanced attack as Fowler, Miller, Boswell and Windham picked up points on kills during the surge.
Leading by five late, the Lady Lions witnessed their advantage dwindle to 24-23, but a hitting error on an Abilene High spike ended the set.
Brownwood was unable to maintain its momentum in the second set, despite leading as late as 16-14 following a Davalynn Monroe ace. Knotted at 19, the Lady Lions yielded three straight points before a kill from Miller stopped the bleeding. Brownwood trimmed the deficit to 24-23 on a kill by Cotton, but Abilene High prevailed to even the match.
“If we start off a little stronger we probably don’t need to go five sets with them, I think we could have taken them in four,” Withrow said. “But we’re all learning from our mistakes and growing as a team. These are the kind of things that we have to learn in pre-district.”
Abilene High seemed in complete control of the match during the third set, pushing its advantage to double digits, 24-14, late. Behind the serving of Gillispie and six kills from Miller, the Lady Lions did the improbable and rallied to draw even at 24. Though the next two points went Abilene High’s way, the comeback may prove to be a turning point for the Lady Lions.
“That was so exciting, by far the biggest run ever for us in a game,” Withrow said. “We said in the locker room afterward that it proves we have the talent, we can be the better team, we just have to start stronger and execute all the way to the finish. That got our confidence going even though it didn’t go our way, but it’s another learning opportunity.”
In the fourth set, the Lady Lions were able to compete their comeback this time, climbing out of an early 12-6 hole to force the tiebreaking set. Still down 24-23 late, Fowler recorded three consecutive kills to secure the victory.
In the tiebreaker, the Lady Lions trailed 8-7 but two kills by Miller and a block and a kill by Larose pushed Brownwood in front, 11-8. Abilene responded with four straight points, however, to regain the edge. Miller kills knotted the score at 12 and again at 13, but the Lady Lions’ scoring ended there.
“In the last set I felt we had a good lead on them and felt confident this was going to be our match,” Withrow said. “We had one mistake and you could see the confidence drop and the girls got in a funk where they had four missed points in a row and that got us down. That’s something we have to learn, we can’t let one mistake turn into a ripple effect.”
The Lady Lions will face another 6A opponent Friday as they visit San Angelo Central at 6 p.m.