GATESVILLE — Rickey Phillips did not have to say much. 

After dominating the first two sets against Waco Connally, Gatesville lost three consecutive points to start the third set. Immediately, the Hornets head coach called a timeout, feeling his players lost focus.

But he was not the only one to see the slip in concentration.

“In that huddle,” Phillips said, “before I could say too many words, some of their teammates were letting them know about it, and that’s good.

“We’ve got lots of players who have been really good leaders all season long, and they stepped in there and just told them that it’s not OK to play that way. I want our leaders to be leaders every opportunity they can, so that was good to see.”

Gatesville won the match’s next six points and did not have another lapse, securing a 25-11, 25-12, 25-12 victory.

Following the sweep, like her coach, Hornets senior Rosie Lee admitted the importance of having players take initiative.

“We have to play like we know we can on every single point,” the outside hitter said, “and we lost a little steam to start that third set. It is key that we as players are reliable. So, that is what we try to do all the time — be accountable.”

Outside of the minor hiccup, Gatesville was in control for the entire match as a bevy of players produced offensively.

With setter Madison Carpenter tallying 28 assists, five Hornets finished with at least three kills, including Lee, who came off the bench to deliver a team-high seven kills.

Such performances are exactly what Phillips believes is allowing Gatesville (24-7, 3-1 District 17-4A) to be successful.

“The one thing that has really carried us throughout the year is that we’ve had kids come off the bench and play well in every phase of the game,” he said. “They don’t just come in to give someone a breather, but they come in and are effective in their role.

“Some of these guys don’t play a lot but when they do, they are making plays.”

The Hornets scored seven unanswered points in the first set to open a 13-4 advantage before securing the set with another 7-0 outburst punctuated by one of freshman Sydney Mundkowsky’s four aces.

The second set was more of the same as Gatesville won seven of the first eight points to build a comfortable lead it would not relinquish.

Connally (8-19, 0-3) briefly halted the momentum in the third set by creating their only cushion of the match, but the Hornets responded by constructing a 17-8 lead before Carpenter set up senior Sadie Swindall for the match-clinching kill.

Swindall recorded six kills in the win, while sophomore Maci Matthews added five kills and five digs. Senior libero Corie Tunnell led Gatesville defensively with 14 digs.

In the end, though, the key to the outcome was veteran players taking command of the team like they did during the third set, according to middle blocker Gracie Lee.

“After last year,” the senior said, “the older players knew we were going to have to step up as leaders this season, and that’s what we did tonight.”

Contact Clay Whittington at

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