Playing without two-time district offensive player of the year Torrey Miller, the Brownwood Lady Lions on Friday were still able to pick up a three-set home victory over Eastland — and boost their confidence level an additional notch — heading into Tuesday's bi-district showdown with state-ranked Argyle.
Brownwood chalked up a 25-17, 25-23, 25-23 victory over District 6-3A champion Eastland, snapping a three-game skid even though Miller missed the game due to a visit to West Texas A&M, where she will play collegiately.
“I'm glad we got to have the warm up game against Eastland,” said Lady Lions first-year head coach Jessica Withrow. “I scheduled it because I know we'd beaten them before and without Torrey present I felt like it was going to be a good game for us, and it was. Getting to win in three really brought their confidence up. We're hoping to have a good practice on Monday with the scouting report we have against Argyle, then we're going to give it our very best shot and see what happens.”
Brownwood and No. 17 Argyle will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Breckenridge.
“We're going to be the underdogs but we've talked about how that can be used to our advantage, how people could take us for granted,” Withrow said. “If we go in and play to our ability consistently, anything could happen.”
Miller's absence, coupled with the addition of some JV call ups prior to the start of the postseason, allowed the Lady Lions (12-19) to work different faces in new places against Eastland (13-7), and Withrow was pleased with the result.
“It seemed like they were working well together, especially toward the end,” Withrow said. “This is probably going to be a lot of the team for next year and it was exciting to see as a coach that we're still able to do some great things. There were some girls that stepped up and tried to bring some energy that Torrey is used to bringing. I think they realized it's not just one person even though Torrey is an amazing player and helps us so much. We can still accomplish things if we work together.”
In the opening set against Eastland, the Lady Lions snapped a 17-all tie by tallying the final eight points. A couple of hitting errors by the Lady Mavs pushed Brownwood back in front, then Davalynn Monroe served an ace. Eastland continued with unforced errors down the stretch, allowing the Lady Lions to grab the advantage.
The second set saw Brownwood jump out to a 20-11 lead. Kills by Olivia Fowler, Gracie Boswell and a block from Lindsey Larose helped the Lady Lions establish a near double-digit cushion. Eastland, however, clawed its way back with 10 consecutive points to a grab 21-20 lead.
A kill from Fowler knotted the score at 22, but Eastland reclaimed a 23-22 lead. Another pair of Lady Mavs' miscues permitted Brownwood to reclaim a 24-23 lead, and Ashlyn Storm finished the set with a kill.
In the third set, kills from Becca Church and Aleyia Cotton helped Brownwood to an early 9-8 lead, but Eastland rallied to take a 15-13 advantage. Back-and-forth play continued down the stretch with Brownwood making the final surge for another narrow victory.
Meanwhile, Argyle (24-16) defeated No. 7 Decatur (31-11) Friday in a playoff-seeding game as the two teams shared the District 6-4A championship. Withrow said of Argyle, “They're a very good team and have had a very successful season. I talked to my assistant coaches, who scouted them Friday, and I've watched some film on them. They have some weaknesses, their hitters aren't as tall as ours. If we can utilize their weaknesses and find some holes, who knows what can happen.”
Withrow added it will require one of the Lady Lions' best overall performances of the season to move on to the second round.
“We're going to have to work extremely hard on defense and move a lot faster than we have all season,” she said. “We're going to have to really communicate with each other and make fewer mistakes. There have been times throughout the season where we played phenomenal at key moments, then other times where we make a couple of mistakes that really cost us. What we've been trying to work on is really cleaning up our errors and our mistakes and getting out of our own heads.”