Chances slip away

Lady Lions unable to hold leads in straight-set loss to No. 15 Stephenville

Derrick Stuckly
Aleyia Cotton (4), Brownwood's lone senior, finished with 10 kills, 15 digs and one ace in the Lady Lions' loss to No. 15 Stephenville in Tuesday's regular season home finale. [Photo by Derrick Stuckly]

The Brownwood Lady Lions led No. 15 Stephenville 18-15 in the first set and 24-21 in third set, but sputtered down the stretch of each as the District 7-4A champion Honeybees left Warren Gym with a straight-set victory in Tuesday night's regular season finale.

“The girls played hard and showed their capabilities,” said Lady Lions first-year head coach Allison Smith. “It was a well-fought game and we should have come out on top. We have to close important games when we have the opportunity to do so. This was good practice going into our playoff game next Tuesday.”

The Lady Lions (18-14, 5-3), runners-up out of 7-4A, dropped the match 25-21, 25-16, 26-24 and will begin postseason play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5 at Graham against 8-4A third seed Krum.

The Honeybees (32-9, 8-0) are headed for a bi-district matchup with 8-4A fourth seed Bridgeport at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Aledo.

Aleyia Cotton, the Lady Lions' lone senior who was recognized before the game, led Brownwood with 10 kills trailed by six each from Olivia Fowler and Katelyn Windham, five by Kylie Morris, four from Jaylen Savage, two from Ashlyn Storm and one from Tessa Goodwin.

Kylie Wooten distributed 19 assists while Goodwin chipped in nine, Caitlyn Moody added three and Fowler was credited with one.

Moody and Goodwin both served a pair of aces while Cotton added one.

On the defensive end, Moody's 17 digs were a team-best followed by 15 from Cotton, 10 from Fowler, four each from Wooten and Becca Church, three from Goodwin, and one apiece from Savage, Windham and Storm.

Storm tallied Brownwood's only block.

Trailing 14-12 in the opening set, the Lady Lions seized control with a 6-1 run. A pair of net violations against Stephenville allowed Brownwood to draw even, then an errant spike attempt put the Lady Lions in front, 15-14. Another mishit by Stephenville, coupled with a kill from Savage and a spike into the net from the Honeybees established the Lady Lions' 18-15 edge.

Stephenville quickly responded with three points to pull even, but a kill from Storm put Brownwood back in front, 19-18. The lead didn't last long as the Honeybees reeled of the next five points to grab a 23-19 advantage.

In the second set, a kill from Cotton pulled Brownwood even with Stephenville at 10. The next six points belonged to the Honeybees, however, and the Lady Lions never recovered. Brownwood fell behind by as many as eight points, 20-12, before rattling off four straight points to close the gap to 20-16. Stephenville answered with the final five points of the set.

In the finale, Brownwood was in front for the majority of the set. A kill from Fowler broke a 2-all tie and the Lady Lions were off and running. Windham's kill gave Brownwood its biggest lead at 12-6.

Leading 21-16 after another Windham kill, the first of two straight service errors began the undoing of the Lady Lions. Later, a service error by Stephenville put the Lady Lions on the brink of victory, 24-21. Clinging to a 24-22 edge, Brownwood followed with a spike into the net, another wide of the mark and a second into the net, as Stephenville gained a 25-24 edge before Emma Giddings' block ended the set and the match.

Before the Lady Lions begin postseason action, Brownwood has a playoff warm-up game scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday as the Miles Lady Bulldogs will visit Warren Gym.