GATESVILLE — Rickey Phillips needed something to complain about. In the third set, he got it.
After putting together a strong start to the season opener, Gatesville stumbled slightly, allowing visiting Waco University to construct a rally.
The comeback attempt was not enough to rob the Lady Hornets of a straight-set victory, but it provided their head coach with some ammunition.
“If you get a big lead, to me, you go finish them and set the tone,” Phillips said. “We have to make sure we can go be a good finisher.”
Gatesville was rarely threatened during its 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-17) win Monday evening, and the Lady Trojans’ late push was not enough to truly swing the momentum, but it did allow Phillips to send a message.
The Lady Hornets jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the third game, extending their advantage to 13 points, 23-10, on senior Robin Galiano’s ace.
Despite being two points away from victory, Gatesville could not finish off University as the Lady Trojans used a 7-1 outburst to close the gap before returning all-district co-offensive MVP Kayla McGiboney delivered a match-clinching kill.
In addition to earning a win, Phillips hopes his players learned a lesson.
“I told them University was not going to quit,” he said. “They were not going away, and we put some different kids in, but that is not an excuse. We always tell our kids, ‘If you are going on the floor, you go make plays like you are a starter.’”
University scored the match’s first point on a kill from outside hitter Justice McGowan, but the score was tied on the following play as Andrea Penny recorded a service error.
Moments later, McGiboney logged the Lady Hornets’ first offensive point of the season, allowing Gatesville to slowly begin pulling away. An 8-2 run capped off by McGiboney’s scoring block gave the Lady Hornets a 13-7 advantage before the teams spent the remainder of the set consistently alternating points.
The Lady Trojans rebounded in the second set, claiming their biggest lead of the match, 7-5, off consecutive Gatesville errors, but another surge put the Lady Hornets (1-0) back in control. Trailing 9-8, senior outside hitter Lexi Hall delivered one of her six kills to begin a 10-2 run, and University (0-1) never recovered, falling in the set before tumbling into an insurmountable hole to begin the third set.
McGiboney and Michaela King tied for team-high honors in kills with seven apiece, while Brianna Poe and Hall each finished with six kills. Senior setter Mikayla Heckmann served up four aces to go with 22 assists.
Gatesville returns to its home court tonight for a match against Waco before beginning play at the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD tournament Thursday.
Although the Lady Hornets produced as good an opening match as Phillips could expect outside of the third-set hiccup, the coach of seven district champions in the last 11 years believes there is always room for improvement.
“I don’t need much to nitpick,” Phillips said. “And my kids know that.”