By Evan Ren
Killeen Daily Herald
After nine matches and nine straight losses, the Belton monkey has finally been knocked from Tiffani Walker's back.
Now in her sixth season as the Harker Heights' volleyball coach, Walker and the Lady Knights notched the first win over Belton in school history on Friday, downing the Lady Tigers in a thrilling district opener, 25-17, 26-24, 19-25, 17-25, 17-15.
Whitney Tucker blasted home a game-high 18 kills to lead Heights (6-10, 1-0 District 13-5A), which blew a two-game lead on their home floor only to recover and win the match.
With the loss, Belton fell to 3-14 and 0-1.
"We had never beaten Belton before, but we didn't talk about it before the match," Walker said. "But the girls were aware of it and it's the first thing they mentioned after it was over."
Charging out to a 2-0 advantage in games behind nine kills from Tucker, the Lady Knights appeared to be in control of the match when things began to go haywire.
After posting a total 16 unforced errors through Games 1 and 2, the Lady Knights committed 24 in the next two contests, including a whopping 15 in Game 3.
Belton was content to take advantage of the blunders, scoring five straight points off Heights' miscues in one stretch to take control of Game 3. Outside hitter Katelyn Rosebrock was the catalyst in Game 4, providing four kills and a block to help force a fifth game.
With their momentum all but gone heading into Game 5, Walker elected to forego a "rah-rah" speech in lieu of something a bit more simple.
"'First one to 15 wins', that's about all I could say," Walker said. "The rest was up to them."
The Lady Knights responded with a come-from-behind effort which brought the home crowd to its feet, screaming.
Down 9-8, 12-10 and 14-13 in the decisive game, Heights erased each deficit to force a tie at 15.
Kristy Blurton then supplied a cross-court kill to give the Lady Knights a 16-15 edge, after which Rosebrock missed long to give Heights the match.
Blurton finished with three kills, four blocks and two aces on the night. Brittany Canales was another key contributor, with four kills and a pair of aces.
"We had a lot of people come up big tonight, but especially Blurton and Canales toward the end," Walker said. "Our setters did a great job also, running a couple of smart plays to get us out of tough spots."
Heights will next see action when it travels to Bryan on Tuesday. Belton, which will travel to Waco on the same evening, was led by Kelsey Boone with 16 kills and two blocks.
Contact Evan Ren at firstname.lastname@example.org