By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE - Rickey Phillips called one last timeout seconds before his Gatesville Hornets put away Lorena on Tuesday.
Gatesville was sitting on match point but had just given up back-to-back points, letting the Lady Leopards close the Game 3 lead to three points.
His final message in a meeting between two of Class 3A's top teams - don't look at the scoreboard. Gatesville immediately turned that into the match's final point, as Glynna Johnson slammed home her 20th kill, sending the No. 6 Hornets past No. 8 Lorena in a sweep (25-16,
"The referees will let us know when it's over," Phillips said. "I thought we kind of got complacent there for a couple plays - let our guard down."
From there, it was back to simple volleyball - a good first pass and a good set. The pass went to senior setter Kaitlin Poe, who found Johnson coming up from the back row. Once Johnson completed her swing, the Northwestern State commit sent the volleyball flying past the Lorena defense and off the floor.
It ended a rare sweep between the two District 19-3A rivals. Lorena (26-3, 1-1) pushed Gatesville to five games in both district games last year. The Hornets (27-3, 2-0) won both on the way to an undefeated 19-3A crown.
They met again in the Region III-3A quarterfinals, with Lorena again pushing Gatesville to a decisive fifth game before the Hornets prevailed.
"We pretty much expected the same thing," said Johnson, who had five aces and four digs. "But we knew that if we played our game, we wouldn't have a problem with it at all."
That was the case for much of the match. Gatesville was able to string points together using an attack that wasn't just the 6-foot-3 Johnson. The Hornets made Lorena have to account for Daija Ward and Ashley Cook, as well as Skye Truss, who finished with six kills after making the move to middle blocker a few weeks back.
It hasn't been a seamless transition - or even one she liked at first - but Truss, who totaled eight blocks, drew rave reviews from her coach and teammates for her play.
During a stretch in Game 3 when Lorena led 11-9, Truss put away three of the next four points fromt he middle for Gatesville, who took the lead and never looked back. Lorena snapped the 4-point run with a Briana Lina kill, but there was Truss again, putting down another kill that started another four-point run.
"She helps us all a lot because she gets more kills and actually helps us on the outside better," Johnson said. "The whole rotation - we flow better together."
Added Phillips: "She does a good job of getting good swings and with her blocking too. She's made that transition very easy for us and for her too."
That late lead was one of the few times Lorena was in control of the match. The teams traded points to start each game, before a quick 3-point Gatesville run stretched its lead to four, five and six points. Lorena strung together multiple points only three times in Game 1, with its lone three-point run after the Hornets led 21-13.
It only happened once in Game 2 before the Lady Leopard finally scored 7-of-8 points during a run in the finale to take their first lead of the match.
"When they get momentum, they're dangerous," Phillips said. "We gave up a couple points here and there, but we never let them get three, four or five."