BELTON — The Class 4A Gatesville Lady Hornets are a team trying to earn a 15th consecutive playoff berth under coach Rickey Phillips.
Tuesday evening, they traveled to Belton to face a Class 6A Lady Tigers team looking to get back into the playoffs after just missing last season under then first-year coach Krystal Brodbeck.
It was the Lady Tigers who came out ahead, sweeping the Lady Hornets 25-10, 25-19, 25-22 in a match that showed both coaches how much work needs to be done to make the playoffs.
“It was good to see them enjoy the match,” Brodbeck said. “Our motto is ‘Never settle’ and so that is what we are dealing with this evening. Even though we fixed a lot tonight, there is still a lot to work on.”
Hitting mistakes, lack of communication and unforced errors were evident from the start for Gatesville as Belton rolled out to a 12-5 lead, with seven of the points coming on Lady Hornets mistakes.
“I think two or three of our girls tonight, for whatever reason, didn’t think we could win,” Phillips said. “And we played intimidated from the get-go. I can’t tell you why, because we just played seven 5A and 6A teams over the weekend and never backed down.”
The Lady Tigers (7-4) shut down tall Gatesville hitters Sydney Mundkowsky and Sage Carson early on. If the blockers weren’t able to stop the attack at the net, the defense — led by libero Madison Ward and specialist Katie Bain — were digging and returning almost every offering.
“The thing about Gatesville is they are a very consistent program,” Brodbeck said. “We know they have good hitters and move the ball around well. But some of our players are familiar with theirs, so that helped when we were matching up. And we did a good job executing on the block.”
Mundkowsky, a sophomore, still posted four kills in the opening set and finished with a match-high nine.
Gatesville’s hitting mistakes proved costly, though.
“We didn’t clean it up well,” Phillips said. “We gave a lot of points away and a lot of that is Belton. They serve aggressive. They hit aggressive. We didn’t do a good job playing at the level they were playing at. We dug ourselves a hole in all three and couldn’t overcome. You can’t do that against good teams like that.”
The second set saw both teams give up 14 points on unforced errors, and the third set started out the same, with the first seven points coming on mistakes.
But after trailing early, Gatesville (6-5) made a late charge in the final set, thanks to solid play from Carson and Maci Matthews, who had four of her six kills in the final set to help cut a 19-11 deficit to 22-19.
But it proved too little too late as another hitting error gave the Lady Tigers the momentum again. After a little more fight from the Lady Hornets, a kill by Belton’s Elicia Jackson and one final hitting error by Gatesville closed out the match.
“I told them during the timeout you shouldn’t underestimate Gatesville,” Brodbeck said. “They know how to compete and can turn on you at any point. So I was very pleased we were able to put this match away in three. And hopefully we can ride this momentum into the weekend.”
Said Phillips: “They whipped our tail. We had a great opportunity tonight to treat this kind of like a playoff atmosphere and we just didn’t handle the challenge. Belton embarrassed us.”