Fresh off two sweeps in its last two games, Ellison coach William De Gracia said his team looked a bit “comfortable” at the start of its match against Temple on Tuesday.
Fortunately, the Lady Eagles have Bri’anna Gray, who awakened her team from its sluggish start as Ellison swept Temple, 25-14, 25-15, 25-20 inside Ellison’s gymnasium.
Gray had a game-high nine kills and four blocks to lead Ellison (16-8, 4-0 District 8-5A), which followed the lead of its 5-foot-9 junior after a slow start.
“Whenever we’re really slow and we know we need to pick up the pace, Bri’anna has this saying, ‘Get me the ball, and see what happens,’” said sophomore Asia Howard.
What happened was Ellison shaking a pesky Temple team to cruise to 11- and 10-point wins in its first two sets.
The teams were tied 10-10 in the opening set before Ellison busted it open with an 8-1 spurt to essentially put the Lady Wildcats away.
The second set was nearly the same as the Lady Eagles were clinging to a 15-12 advantage before finally pulling away, going up 21-13 on Gray’s sixth kill.
“Our main goal is to get the ball to Bri’anna Gray,” said Howard, who had eight assists to go with six kills and two aces.
And Gray was appreciative of her teammates’ efforts to get her involved.
“Their sets were amazing,” Gray said, “they passed up.”
Temple actually controlled the early portion of the final set, answering every Ellison attempt to pull even just as the Lady Eagles did in the previous two sets.
But the Lady Eagles finally tied it up at 12-12 and later gained a bit of breathing room on a Bryanna Sanchez ace that put them up 16-14. The run culminated with Ellison going up 20-15 on Gray’s ninth kill of the night as the Lady Eagles were able to hold off the Lady Wildcats 20-15.
“I cannot take away from (Temple), they made us play,” De Gracia said. “If we were going to slack, they were going to get us.”
Yet with matches against Waco Midway, Copperas Cove and Belton looming, De Gracia said his team will need to be better than it was Tuesday.
“Last year, they were 1-2-3 in our district, so that’s going to test us,” De Gracia said. “(We’ll) see where we’re at.”
But the Lady Eagles, who haven’t dropped a set in three matches, feel up to the task.
“Our main goal is just to play our hardest and give them our all and play at their speed,” Howard said.
Added Gray: “I think we’re ready — (we’ve) just got to keep practicing hard.”