It was a heartbreaking loss and a valuable experience.
Looking to win its second consecutive District 8-6A match, Harker Heights appeared poised to deliver, leading 2-1 after holding off a late third-set rally by visiting Ellison.
But it was not enough.
The Lady Eagles dominated the duration of the match en route to earning their first district victory with a 25-23, 20-25, 23-25, 25-12, 15-7 win, and the sudden turn of events left the Lady Knights stunned.
“To see them be the perfect example of all the things we are working to be here in one set,” Harker Heights head coach Stephanie Dillard said, “and then to watch them go backwards 10 fold right after is very disheartening.
“There are girls visibly upset in the locker room, because they are taking this loss hard. They wanted this game.”
So did Ellison.
After producing a wire-to-wire win in the opening set, the Lady Eagles saw a slim 15-14 advantage slip away as the Lady Knights used an 8-2 outburst to propel them to victory.
Then, Harker Heights (17-9, 1-2) opened the third set by claiming seven of the first nine points, but Ellison (20-5, 1-3) would climb out of a 22-16 hole to even the score 23-23. Following a timeout, however, the Lady Knights responded with two consecutive points, culminating with senior Aliyah Lockett’s set-clinching ace.
It proved to be Harker Heights’ final lead of the night.
“We got out of our game,” Dillard said, “and we can’t afford to do that. We have to be tuned in 100 percent of the time; from the first point to the last point. We weren’t, and that was the difference in the game.
“Ellison fought and fought and fought, and they did not give up, but we got content, and we gave up.”
While the outcome was disappointing, Dillard believes it will serve a purpose.
“We want to be competitors,” she said. “We don’t just want to say that we want to win or we want to do good things, we have to really believe it when we say it and really believe it.
“I’m hoping this loss helps them learn that.”
Jendaya Robertson and Sorcha Dunn led the Lady Knights offensively with 10 and nine kills, respectively, as senior setters Selicia Field (18) and Sheila Borders (15) combined for 33 assists. Additionally, Valeria Cosme and Lockett produced two aces apiece.
Defensively, Haley Brown recorded a team-high six blocks, and McKayla Flowers finished with five blocks, while Cosme tallied 20 digs, and Jaylyn Capito totaled 15 digs.
Harker Heights will look to rebound from the emotional encounter with Ellison tonight against Belton before concluding the first half of district play with matches against Copperas Cove and Waco Midway.
“It’s all about what we take away from any experience,” Dillard said. “It’s about how we can get better and use it to build ourselves up for the next competition.
“If they stay true to that, then good things can happen moving forward, but we have to be serious about what we are doing.”