WACO — It all started at the service line for Gatesville.
But if Alvarado dared to return it, Ashley Cook and Lauren Nichols were there to send it right back with conviction.
“That’s our job, our job is to finish the play,” Cook said. “We have our people that pass it and set it, so we have to be the ones that finish it.”
The Hornets put it all together Tuesday night, but especially from the service line with 12 aces in a 25-17, 25-12, 25-7 sweep of Alvarado in a bi-district doubleheader Tuesday at Waco University High School.
“Our serving is one of our strongest points, you have to make them make the mistakes with your serves,” said Cook, who led with 15 kills and four blocks.
A year after advancing to the 3A regional semifinals and recording a school record 37 wins, Gatesville (34-5) moved on to play District 5-3A champion Vernon at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Springtown High School.
Senior setter Paige Chambers led with 28 assists, seven digs and seven kills while sister Megan Chambers had eight digs and two aces and Nichols added eight kills.
Despite leading throughout Game 1, it wasn’t until Game 2 that the Hornets really showed their dominance.
“I told our kids in the huddle after Game 1, we’ve got to play better in Game 2 and then better (still) in Game 3,” Gatesville coach Rickey Phillips said. “And I thought we did a great job keeping our focus staying the course.”
With Megan Chambers serving, Gatesville rolled off the first six points of the second game, beginning with a push tip by Paige Chambers. Following a lift call against Alvarado, Cook got a stuff block and sandwiched a Megan Chambers ace with another kill before Paige Chambers capped the run with another tip kill.
The Lady Indians scored the next two points, but Cook responded with back-to-back kills and an 8-2 lead.
“The first few points we wanted to set them up outside, get them thinking about it, and then once we went back inside, we got a lot of one-on-one swings with Ashley in the middle, and she’s good,” Phillips said.
Alvarado didn’t go quietly, pulling within 14-11 before a Nichols kill forced a side-out and put Madeleine Lamar at the line for Gatesville. The senior reserve rattled off seven straight points, including a pair of aces that were surrounded by two more Nichols kills and a cross-court kill from Paige Chambers to put the Hornets up 22-11.
“I think our kids rallied around Madeleine, because we don’t get that from her all the time with those aces,” Phillips said of Lamar, who had three aces on the night. “She’s a good placement server, but her little topspin was working tonight, and we needed it too.”
The service momentum carried over into Game 3 as Gatesville scored 10 of the first 12 points, including five straight with Paige Chambers at the line, bookending a lift violation with a pair of aces.
“We knew we just had to keep our momentum up,” Cook said.
Leading 15-5 after a Nichols tip and a Cook block, the Hornets closed the door, scoring on 10 of the final 12 serves, including three kills by Cook over the final six points.