GATESVILLE — Stacy Meyers has been trying to convince her players they are capable of beating anyone.
Now, Belton has reason to believe.
The Lady Tigers swept the competition at the Gatesville tournament, culminating with a title-clinching performance against the host Lady Hornets on Saturday evening.
“We are learning that we do have the right to be here,” Meyers said. “Sometimes they still aren’t sure, but we can play with anybody. As long as we don’t give up on ourselves, we can stay in a game. ... We are starting to not play within ourselves. We are playing outside of ourselves for our team.”
After defeating China Spring 25-16, 25-21 in the semifinals, Belton beat Gatesville 25-19, 15-25, 25-21 to win the championship.
Like her coach, Belton senior Brieanne Brown believes the team’s recent success, which includes its current seven-match winning streak, stems from the Lady Tigers’ recent mental evolution.
“We really focused on starting excited and staying excited,” Brown said. “(Against Gatesville) was our best game we’ve had with staying excited the whole time, and it is a complete difference when we play like that.”
The Lady Tigers had reason to get down on themselves, though, especially midway through the title match.
Belton jumped out to an early 12-4 lead in the opening set and was never truly threatened, leading 22-15 before winning by six points. The second set, however, proved to be more difficult.
With junior outside hitter Robin Galiano making key kills and delivering low, powerful serves, the Lady Hornets went on a 17-4 run to build a 23-9 advantage, but Belton didn’t go away. The Lady Tigers won six of the next seven points to stop the bleeding before losing the set. Nevertheless, the late rally proved to be critical.
“We got in too big of a hole to get out of, but that did (carry over) into that third game,” Meyers said. “The momentum was really on our side at the end of the game, and that obviously gave us a boost.”
After playing to a 6-6 tie in the third set, Belton pulled away, building a cushion Gatesville could not overcome, and the Lady Tigers closed the match with a 5-2 run.
Gatesville head coach Rickey Phillips thought his team played better against Belton after losing to the Lady Tigers in a five-set match earlier in the week, but he knows his Lady Hornets, who beat Dublin 25-23, 24-26, 25-21 in the semifinals, still has lots of room to improve.
“We’re not young, but we are inexperienced in some spots,” Phillips said. “We are gaining a lot of valuable court time these first two and three weeks (of the season) which is what we hoped to do.”
Harker Heights takes sixth, Temple falls twice
The Lady Knights split their two games Saturday at the Gatesville tournament to finish sixth overall. Harker Heights opened with a 22-25, 25-13, 25-13 victory against District 8-5A rival Temple before falling to Waco University 24-26, 25-15, 25-21 in the fifth-place match. The Tem-Cats were unable to rebound from the loss and followed up the performance with a 25-17, 25-8 loss to Round Rock Christian.
Salado beats Florence in consolation bracket
Salado opened Saturday’s play at the Gatesville tournament with a straight-sets loss to Waco Reicher, but ended it with a come-from-behind thriller against Florence.
The Lady Eagles were swept by Reicher 25-18, 25-20 in the consolation semifinals, while the Lady Buffaloes lost to Troy 26-24, 25-27, 25-12 on the opposite side of the bracket.
The results set up a match between Salado and Florence that went the distance before the Lady Eagles won 22-25, 25-10, 25-10.
Ellison finishes eighth overall
Ellison split the final day of the Gatesville tournament, losing to Llano in the fifth-place match.
The Lady Eagles opened with a 29-27, 25-20 win over Gatesville’s gold team before ending their stay in the tournament with a 25-23, 25-22 loss to Llano.
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com