The season is less than two weeks old, but Gatesville has developed an identity.

The Hornets earned straight-set victories in all three of their home tournament matches Thursday, defeating Hillsboro, Troy and Shoemaker to advance to the semifinals.

While Gatesville coach Rickey Phillips is happy to have survived the first day unblemished, he is more excited about how his team did it.

“We’re not going to overpower anybody with our size,” he said. “We just don’t have much of it. We’ve got a lot of youth in there, but in most of the games we’ve played, the big difference for us has been our kids just don’t quit.”

Senior middle blocker Ashley Cook recorded 14 kills and two blocks, and setter Paige Chambers finished with 14 assists and three aces as the Hornets defeated Hillsboro 25-12, 25-13 in the opening round.

In its second match, Gatesville easily beat Troy 25-9, 25-10. Cook posted eight kills, five assists and four blocks in the win, while Lauren Nichols added five digs, three assists and two kills.

Cook rounded her string of strong individual performances by posting 12 kills and three aces in a 25-10, 25-5 win against Shoemaker, which had defeated Hamilton in Round 1.

“We need to play well regardless of who is across the net,” Phillips said. “I thought we did a good job of just staying with it. On almost every ball, (we were) playing aggressive and trying to be the better team on every play. That was our goal today.”

In addition to improving the Hornets’ undefeated record to 12-0, the trio of victories sets up a semifinal match against China Spring, which defeated Salado in its third game of the day, at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The winner advances to the finals, where it will play the winner between Lago Vista, ranked fifth in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 2A poll, and Llano at 7 p.m., while the two semifinal losers will play each other at 6 p.m. Salado defeated Lampasas in the opening round.

The Lady Badgers then fell into the loser’s bracket against Ellison, which had also lost to China Spring 25-23, 27-25. Against the Lady Eagles, Lampasas’ lack of size at the net was a liability, according to Davis, and the Lady Badgers lost 25-11, 25-22.

“(We need to learn) when we are ahead, we need to stay ahead,” Lampasas head coach Kecia Davis said. “I try to do as many drills as possible to get us that next level, but they’ve got to put in their own time to mentally prepare and stay mentally in the match.”

After building an early lead, the Lady Badgers had difficulties controlling Salado’s serve and lost in straight sets 25-22, 25-19.

“We couldn’t slow their hitters down,” the coach said. “We played pretty good in spurts, but we just don’t have that killer instinct yet.”

Lampasas (3-7 overall) plays Central Texas Christian on Saturday at 8 a.m. at Gatesville Junior High. A win would cause the Lady Badgers to play again at 11 a.m., while a loss would set up a 10 a.m. match.

Florence was China Spring’s third victim of the day, defeating the Lady Buffaloes 25-8, 25-15. Florence (2-5) plays Rogers on Saturday at 8 a.m. in a consolation match up.

Belton, meanwhile, went 2-1 playing in the other half of the bracket, defeating Waco Reicher 25-12, 25-22 and Jarrell 25-6, 25-22 and falling to Lago Vista 25-19, 25-19.

“We’re still trying to take baby steps forward,” first-year Belton coach Stacy Myers said. “We get in a hole and have to dig our way out. But we’re getting better all the time.”

Heights sweeps through pool — At Bastrop, the Lady Knights continued their torrid start to the season by breezing through their pool Thursday at the Cedar Creek Classic Tournament.

Heights (12-2) bested Austin Crockett 25-13, 25-23 before easily dispatching Luling 25-8, 25-11. Against Waller, the Lady Knights pulled out a 26-24, 25-18 victor and will play today at 4 p.m.

Killeen, meanwhile, defeated Little River-Academy 25-18, 25-16 and tournament host Bastrop Cedar Creek 12-25, 25-20, 26-24. The Lady Roos finished the day 3-0 when it defeated Rockdale 25-19, 25-21.

Cove wins three more — At West, the Lady Bulldawgs, won all three of its games at the West tournament, defeating Clifton 25-11, 25-8, Rosebud-Lott 25-14, 25-1 and West 25-16, 25-19.

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