GATESVILLE — Rickey Phillips could see the mistakes mounting. 

After taking the first two sets against China Spring, Gatesville watched its four-point advantage in the clinching set begin to dwindle. Moments after leading 15-11, the Hornets were on the verge of losing grasp of the set.

Thanks to some impressive serving from Sadie Swindall, however, Gatesville secured the sweep with a 25-19, 25-17, 25-19 victory.

Following the win, Hornets head coach Rickey Phillips admitted it was far from a flawless performance.

“Just when I thought we were going to make a big separation,” he said, “we would make a few mental mistakes, and we probably got a little complacent.

“When you get complacent, you don’t move your feet as much and aren’t as sharp as you were earlier in the game. It’s human nature, but you can’t be that way sometimes. Overall, it was a good win, though, and we’ll take it.”

The squads went back and forth in the final set with the Lady Cougars earning their largest lead of the night at 9-7 before Gatesville responded with an 8-2 outburst punctuated by one of Gracie Lee’s team-high tying seven kills.

Then, in a must-win situation, China Spring began to rally, pulling within a point at 20-19, but Swindall delivered three consecutive aces before sophomore outside hitter Maci Matthews’ kill completed the sweep.

Although the Hornets were never in danger of losing the match, avoiding a fourth set was critical, according to Phillips.

“It was a big deal to finish them off,” he said. “We went to sleep a little bit, but we found some ways in every phase of the game to win, though.”

Along with her five aces, Swindall finished with five kills, while Kate Lovejoy tied Lee for team-high honors in kills with seven, and setter Madison Carpenter tallied 24 assists.

Throughout the match, Gatesville (26-9, 5-2 District 17-4A) was forced to fight off China Spring’s runs.

The Hornets won six of the opening set’s first eight points and held a 17-9 advantage, but the Lady Cougars, who fell to 3-4 in district, pulled within four points, 23-19, before Gatesville halted the run with consecutive points.

Then, during the ensuing set, a seven-point cushion deflated to 21-17. Thanks to five unanswered points punctuated by Lovejoy’s ace, China Spring would not get any closer.

The teams were involved in seven ties during the third set before Gatesville eventually pulled away, snapping a two-match losing streak.

“There is no doubt this builds momentum for the team,” Phillips said. “We’ve still got five games to go in district, and they are all tough ones.

“So, every win is a big win.”

Now, the Hornets turn their attention to Saturday’s match against Robinson, which won in straight sets during the opening round of district.

Phillips feels history will not repeat itself, though.

“We had leads in all three sets during the first game against Robinson,” he said, “but we just didn’t ever cross the finish line.

“But I think the kids are going to rise up to this challenge and play well.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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