For Ellison middle blocker Symone Thomas, playing a gritty five-set match is exhausting. 

But it’s all worth it when the Lady Eagles are able to emerge victorious, like they did Tuesday night at home against Shoemaker. Behind Thomas’ 15 kills and 3½ blocks, Ellison defeated the Lady Grey Wolves 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 16-25, 18-16).

“When you’re on the court, you’re tired, but the adrenaline gets you,” Thomas said. “You don’t feel it until the game stops in a timeout because your adrenaline is pumping, and sometimes that causes errors.

“But I really feel like, as coach (Sarah) Stolley says, we needed to pump up the gas tonight. Lately, we’ve been having trouble coming out of holes and using our momentum, but everybody played their role tonight and played it well.”

Lady Eagles setter Samantha Robinson agreed.

“Our energy has been down lately, but I feel like in this game, we picked it up,” Robinson said. “We played our butts off.”

Robinson finished the night with a match-high 27 assists to accompany her eight digs and four service aces.

Ellison (19-15, 4-7 8-6A) is a half-game behind Killeen and Harker Heights for the final playoff spot. The Lady Eagles host Killeen in their season finale on Friday. Heights closes the season with matches against district powers Copperas Cove and top-ranked Waco Midway.

Ellison had to overcome a ferocious middle blocker on the other side of the court in Shoemaker’s Charlene Shepherd, who registered 19 kills, eight blocks and nine digs in the loss.

“Charlene Shepherd, I give up my hands to her,” Thomas said. “Whenever you play Shoemaker, you know to look out for Charlene, and I give her that. She challenges you, and she makes you better — it’s awesome.”

Stolley said Shepherd and the Lady Wolves (19-17, 2-8), coached by Merdith Shaw-Moore, are a difficult team to play. But she loved to see some resiliency from her own team.

“It’s been a long time, a few weeks, since Ellison has fought like that,” Stolley said. “So I’m proud of the fight in the girls. Adversity has kind of been our biggest opponent, so it’s nice to actually fight through and the girls see the benefit of it.

“And I give so much credit to Shoemaker. Their defense was unbelievable tonight, and coach Moore over there is doing a great job. And Shepherd over there — she is a monster, and it’s scary to think she’s only a junior.”

The first set saw the two squads battle back and forth, but down 23-19, the Lady Wolves scored the final six points to swipe a 1-0 match lead. Two kills by Alexia Wilkinson and a service ace by Alyssia Wilkinson spearheaded the run.

The same occurred in Set 2, but it was the Lady Eagles who scored six of the final seven points after being down 22-19 to tie the match up at 1. The run was highlighted by three kills from Elicia Barcinas and one from Semira Fields.

In the third set, Ellison led 23-19, but managed to break the trend and hold the Lady Wolves off for a three-point victory to go up 2-1 in the match. Breonna Fleming helped seal the match for the Lady Eagles with two kills down the stretch.

Set 4 was all Shoemaker, as the Lady Wolves jumped out to a 15-7 lead and never looked back en route to a nine-point win to extend the match. The stanza was spearheaded by Shepherd, who tallied five kills, followed by Alexia Wilkinson with three.

In the fifth and deciding set, Ellison initially went up 6-3 behind three kills from Thomas, but the Lady Wolves eventually tied it at 9 after consecutive kills by Shepherd and Emonei Chestnut.

The two exhausted teams then went back and forth again, neither trailing by more than one at any point until Tori Urbas’ ace was the final notch on the scoreboard.

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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