BELTON — Belton proved Tuesday it can hold its own against an opponent with a height advantage. Learning to make a key play or two to beat such an opponent will have to wait for another day.
The missing key plays were in Games 1 and 3 against Waco Midway and it prevented the Lady Tigers from extending or perhaps winning the match as the Pantherettes took a 26-24, 25-19, 26-24 victory in a District 8-5A contest at Tiger Gym.
Game 1 was especially frustrating for the Lady Tigers (22-11, 7-3 district), who could not hold a 17-12 lead. Midway (19-22, 9-1) closed the game with a 10-4 run, helped by five Belton hitting errors.
Game 3 was almost the opposite as Belton rallied from a 7-0 deficit and had a 21-18 lead, thanks to three straight service points by Brieanne Brown. Midway regrouped to finish off the match, with freshman Allye Beth Deaton converting three of her match-high 14 kills in the late run.
The Pantherettes have four players who are 5-foot-10 or taller, and Belton tried to counter with hustle. The Lady Tigers had a 67-53 edge in digs, led by 21 from libero Kinsey Williams, but success on defense may have made the defeat even more frustrating.
“We got frustrated on the court and we didn’t play like we know how to. Those were all mental mistakes,” Williams said about the end of Game 1.
“It’s frustrating we lost, but we gave it everything we could.”
Midway, which also swept the first 8-5A meeting with Belton, remained tied for the district lead with Copperas Cove, which swept Harker Heights on Tuesday.
Game 2 was the only one in which Midway’s height advantage was obvious.
The Pantherettes used a 10-2 run to take command with a 19-14 lead. Monica Gonzalez had five kills for Belton, but the Lady Tigers were hindered by Midway’s net play that led to a 6-3 advantage in blocks.
McKinzee Robinson fueled Belton’s rally in Game 3, when she had five of her nine kills. Brown had four kills in Game 1.
Belton coach Stacey Meyers was upbeat about her team’s performance, especially after what she did in Game 1.
“We played amazing in Game 1 considering I put in a completely wrong lineup. We didn’t have a middle (blocker) at times in the front row and sometimes we had two setters,” Meyers said. “I really messed up and they totally overcame it.”
Midway finished with a 43-35 edge in kills, 10 by Allison Jones. Setter Ashley Robb was an all-round standout for the Pantherettes, with a match-high 20 assists to go with 11 digs. Gonzalez finished with eight kills and five blocks.
Williams said for the near-future — likely including the playoffs — the match drove home what the Lady Tigers can’t and can do.
“We know we don’t have the height, but we can do other things well and we know we can do it.”
Both teams held a pre-match fundraiser for the West volleyball team, which had uniforms and equipment damaged in the fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people in April. Spectators contributed more than $700.
Belton plays at Copperas Cove on Friday.