GATESVILLE — In the third set, Gatesville found itself playing a desperate team.
After dominating Lampasas in each of the first two sets, the Lady Hornets were suddenly on their heels as the Lady Badgers attempted a comeback to briefly extend their season.
While the effort was ultimately in vain, Lampasas forced a fourth set, teaching Gatesville a valuable lesson as it prepares for an 11th consecutive postseason appearance.
“I told (my players) yesterday, and then I told them again today that Lampasas was not going to come over here like the season is over, and they are not going to give it to us,” Lady Hornets head coach Rickey Phillips said. “That is exactly what happened. We kind of thought they were going to (just quit).”
Gatesville rebounded from a third-set loss to beat Lampasas 25-10, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20, propelling the Lady Hornets, who finished second in District 8-3A, into bi-district playoff match against Alvarado on Tuesday at Waco High. Start time is yet to be determined.
Like Lampasas, every team the Lady Hornets encounter from here on out will be playing for its competitive life, but Phillips is embracing the challenge.
“There is nothing like the playoffs,” he said. “It is a whole different atmosphere. I don’t want to say its pressure, but one loss and you’re through. … Every play is magnified in those playoff games, they’re that big, but I think it is the best time of year.”
The Lady Hornets enter the postseason having won eight of their final 10 matches, including Tuesday’s home finale that was closer than expected.
Entering the evening winless in district, Lampasas was slow to start, falling into a 8-1 hole following Mikayla Heckmann’s first of three aces. Moments later, the Lady Hornets led 15-4 before closing the set by winning six consecutive points, including a set-clinching kill from junior Lexi Hall.
The second set was a repeat of the first as Gatesville immediately constructed a double-digit advantage, leading 13-3 before Kara Gillis’ kill ended a 7-0 run, but the Lady Badgers would not get closer than seven points, 19-12.
Then, momentum began crossing the court.
Lampasas (10-30, 0-10) claimed its first lead on a serving error by Gatesville to open the third set. The gap grew to 2-0 on Gillis’ ace, and the teams went back and forth from there before the Lady Badgers broke a 21-21 tie with a 4-2 set-securing run.
“I just told the girls that we don’t have anything to lose,” Lampasas head coach Kecia Davis said. “We weren’t playing just for pride. We were playing for some of the goals that we will set for next year.”
The Lady Badgers continued to fight in the fourth set, pulling within two points, 22-20, after trailing 12-4 to start the set, but Gatesville (23-16, 8-2) closed by winning the final three points.
Gillis finished with a team-high 14 kills to lead Lampasas, while Kayla McGiboney had 11 kills and four blocks for Gatesville. Lady Hornets junior Robin Galiano added five kills and four aces, and Hall ended with nine kills, but Phillips knows his players must improve if it they are going to play beyond the bi-district round.
“We have a week, thank goodness, to still fine tune some things and keep getting better on a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve shown a lot of improvement in the last six or seven weeks. We’ve gotten better in most phases during that time, and take away set three tonight, we look pretty good going in (to the playoffs).”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org