By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE - The plan had two objectives.
One was fairly obvious, while the other didn't come to fruition until later Tuesday.
If Gatesville, which moved up to fourth in this week's 3A state poll, took care of business in the opening two games against visiting Waco La Vega, the reserves would start Game 3.
The Hornets did just that, only to then fight a little when La Vega scored 8 of 9 points and doubled up Gatesville's score. That prompted a lineup switch, with the starters having to fight from behind - a rarity for a team that hasn't lost a district match since 2008.
Gatesville did rally, finishing off La Vega 25-8, 25-19, 25-19 for the Hornets' eighth win in a row.
Hornet head coach Rickey Phillips told the reserves they had about 10 or 11 plays. He would make a switch if Gatesville was behind - the Hornets trailed 8-4 when the starters came in.
"That's just being honest - we're not going to dig a hole we can't get out of," Phillips said. "These guys need to be out there and see what it's like having to carry the load. That helps them, but it also gives our starters a chance to see.
"We were making some mental mistakes at the end of Game 2 - not really playing sharp - and I wanted them to get a break, sit, be teammates and then get back on the floor about midway through."
The reserves started well with Sammi Heuer putting Gatesville (31-3, 6-0 19-3A) on the board with a one-armed save moving away from the net. Katie Brock followed with an ace before setting Shyann Waters for a tip kill.
The Lady Pirates (1-4) answered though, using one four-point run to take the lead and another following a Lauren Nichols kill to prompt the lineup switch.
The starting lineup scored six of the next seven points to take a 10-9 lead and force a La Vega timeout.
"Even though we're up two games, they don't like to lose any set," Phillips said. "So it was good for them to come in behind and with La Vega having a little bit of the momentum."
Added setter Kaitlin Poe, who had assists to three different hitters during Gatesville's run to get back into Game 3: "It gave us a chance to calm down. I think we were getting overwhelmed in that game just because we weren't playing well."
Gatesville's starting lineup back on the floor didn't mean La Vega's starters were going to hand over the match. The Lady Pirates took two more leads - the last at 15-14 - before the Hornets turned the tide and started putting space between the scores.
It wasn't like Game 1, in which nearly everything went right for Gatesville. Every Hornet at the service line had to jump- serve in the opener.
"If I served, I was going to jump-serve," Phillips said. "We prepared (Monday) for that. We do it once a year just to get that frame of mind - our kids thinking that they can do it."
Gatesville only missed one serve in Game 1, with Skye Truss serving 13 straight points. She finished with six aces and 11 kills. Glynna Johnson had 16 kills, four blocks and two aces, while Poe tallied 32 assists and six kills.
"It felt awesome," Poe said. "It feels like nobody can beat us - it's real exciting."