The Brownwood Lady Lions pulled off an improbable comeback in the opening set, but were unable to maintain that momentum as the No. 6 Graham Lady Steers rallied for a 25-27, 25-11, 25-18, 25-19 non-district victory Friday at Warren Gym.
“Graham is a pretty scrappy team and you can't take anything away from them, they had really good blocks and really good digs,” said Lady Lions first-year head coach Allison Smith. “Whenever we had an opportunity to get an amazing kill somehow they would get it up. It frustrates the girls when they're working so hard, but they played hard tonight. It was a good effort on both sides.”
In the opening set, the Lady Lions (11-1) faced a 24-18 deficit before reeling off seven consecutive points. A net violation against Graham (26-3) began the Brownwood surge, followed by a tip from Katelyn Windham, two straight hitting errors by the Lady Blues, and consecutive spikes from Windham that knotted the score at 24. The Lady Lions then grabbed a 25-24 lead when Graham hit another ball into the net.
The Lady Blues pulled even at 25, but Olivia Fowler's kill quickly gave the lead back to Brownwood, and an errant hit followed by Graham to end the set.
“That's just going back to the girls' fighting spirit,” Smith said of the first-set rally. “That's what I love so much about our team and I think that sets us apart from most teams, especially being so young. Having that composure to be able to lift yourself back up and push through that, there's a lot of college teams that struggle with that.”
Knotted at 6 in the second set following an ace by Jaylen Savage, another hitting error by the Lady Blues pushed the Lady Lions in front, 7-6. But Graham responded with nine consecutive points, and 19 of the final 23 to even the match at one set apiece.
Slow starts in the third and four sets created holes too big for Brownwood to escape. The Lady Lions fell behind 13-6 early in the third set and were down 12-3 in the fourth.
“We had a lot of errors and we gave them a lot of points,” Smith said. “We need to clean it up a little bit. Whenever we're panicking we can't just go up and hit the ball out and make it easy on them. We have to still make it a competition.”
Fowler led the way with nine kills for Brownwood followed by Windham with eight, Aleyia Cotton with five, Savage with four, Ashlyn Storm with three and Kylie Morris with two.
Tessa Goodwin distributed 14 assists, Kylie Wooten contributed seven, and Cotton, Savage and Caitlyn Moody were credited with one apiece.
Two aces were served by both Fowler and Savage, while one apiece came from Wooten and Goodwin.
Moody recorded a team-best 36 digs followed by Morris and Fowler with 14 apiece, Cotton and Wooten with eight each, Storm, Windham, and Savage with five apiece and Goodwin with three.
Storm tallied three blocks at the net while Fowler notched one.
The Lady Lions are back in action at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday as they welcome Eastland.