CORSICANA — The Belton Lady Tigers took a minute to appreciate where they were: the playoffs.
Even after being swept by Cedar Hill, the Lady Tigers, who won just a single district game and five total in 2011, didn’t allow their 25-14, 25-21, 25-19 loss to the Lady Longhorns in a Region I-5A bi-district playoff match to spoil the turnaround they made in 2012.
“Going into it, I just never thought we’d get this far,” said Belton senior Savannah Frick. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t go past the first round, but it’s very rewarding that we’ve gotten to the point that we have.”
Cedar Hill plays either Lewisville Hebron or Euless Trinity in an area match later this week.
Despite being overmatched by Cedar Hill’s 6-foot middle blocker Briana Holman, a senior who’s committed to LSU, the Lady Tigers (25-14) played the same relatively clean volleyball and scrappy defense that helped fuel their success this season. Holman and the Lady Longhorns’ frontline height proved too difficult a task.
Holman finished with 18 kills and the Lady Longhorns offense was intimidating, but it also had a propensity to make mistakes, which the Lady Tigers used to stay within striking distance the last two games.
Kyler Watkins led Belton with five kills and Frick, Brieanne Brown and Monica Gonzalez each had four. Kinzie Williams had nine digs and Madelyn Graves had seven assists.
“Overall, they’re the best offensive team (we’ve faced this year), definitely,” said first-year Belton coach Stacy Meyers. “(Copperas) Cove has some really good hitters, but they don’t have anyone like that. ... That No. 5 (Holman) is impressive.”
Leading 8-4 in Game 2, Cedar Hill committed five errors in six points to allow Belton to take a 10-8 lead. The Lady Tigers led 16-13 following a scoring tip shot by Graves, but the Lady Longhorns pulled away down the stretch.
“I think that we knew what we had to do and we just executed and came out and just did the best that we could play,” said senior Alexus Dunning. “We had nothing to lose.”
Cedar Hill pulled ahead 18-17 on a kill by Holman to spark a 6-1 run that gave the Lady Longhorns a 23-18 lead. They committed three straight hitting errors, but Holman scored on a block to give them game point and Cedar Hill took a 2-0 lead on an error by the Lady Tigers’ defense.
Cedar Hill looked to run away with the closing game of the match after building a 13-5 lead on the spark of five kills by Holman, but the Lady Longhorns’ mistakes allowed Belton to fight its way back to pull within 15-12.
Senior Kyler Watkins had three kills in a 5-3 run that cut the Lady Longhorns’ lead to 22-18, but Cedar Hill needed just a pair of kills and a Belton error to close out the match.
Cedar Hill missed four serves in Game 1, but used an 8-0 run in the middle of the set to balloon a three-point lead to 18-8 and rolled to the first game win.
“I’m just really, truly proud of these kids. This year has been something I don’t think they expected. I think they thought they would turn it around. They talked about getting to the playoffs, but I don’t think they really believed it, for the first half of the year at least,” Meyers said. “But, what I’m proud of is they learned they deserved to be here. You may be better, but you’re going to have to beat us. If you do, that’s the way it is, but we’re not going to roll over.”