BELTON After winning both matches last year and having the home-court advantage Tuesday night, Belton was looking to use a victory against bitter rival Temple as a springboard to carry momentum into the rest of District 12-5A play.
Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, that wasn't the case.
The first of two matches this season between the Tem-Cats and Lady Tigers, went to Temple, 25-18, 27-25, 25-22.
Despite the loss, Belton coach Justeen Coulson repeated to her team after the loss, "Remember we play them one more time."
Temple (12-17, 2-2 12-5A) took control of the first game behind the superb serving of Lexi Smith. With the game tied at 15-15 and neither team able to seize control, the Tem-Cats scored on nine straight serves by Smith, with two blocks for kills by Brittani Cook.
Temple's Taylor Valentin also chipped in with two kills during the run.
As was the case for most of the night, the Lady Tigers (5-21, 1-3) fought back but were unable to overcome the streak.
"(Smith) doesn't hit a hard serve, but I told our team just give yourselves a chance and let your team do the work," said Temple coach Bree Holz-Gonzales of the run.
Game 2 was the most highly contested of the night, seeing Belton fall behind early, 7-1, but the Lady Tigers clawed back to tie, using the fiery home crowd as a spark.
"(The players) know what to expect when they come here," said Holz-Gonzales when describing how her team was treated by the home crowd.
With a combination of aces by Savannah Frick and Kaitlyn Dunahoo, and an energetic team defense, the Lady Tigers were able to take the lead, 20-18. Down early, Frick used back-to-back aces to pull within three points, 7-4. Belton had four blocks for points by four different players to keep the game close, until three straight aces by Dunahoo got them to within two points, 17-15.
Frick stepped back into the server's role and reeled off five straight points to take the lead.
The Lady Tigers couldn't hold the lead.
After trading points until the game was tied 25-25, a kill by Temple's Valentin and an unforced error by Belton closed out the game.
"Temple made big points when it mattered most, but we competed with them every second of the way," said Coulson of the back-and-forth game.
Game 3 saw Belton's home-court advantage slip away when the visiting Temple crowd began to chant, "This is our house" repeatedly, all but drowning out Belton's supporters.
In the most mistake-ridden of the games, each team consistently gave points away by unforced errors.
However, with Belton down 22-20, Brieanne Brown and Maggie Kramer each tallied two kills that were sandwiched by net serves for the Lady Tigers.
Up 24-23, Temple was able to finish the game propelled by its energetic crowd's mocking-cheer to complete the sweep.
"If I were a player on the court, that would make me feel good, I got fired up," Holz-Gonzales said.
She also revealed that she was, "worried (the team) would be jacked-up and start over-hitting."
That wasn't the case.
Caulson had a positive outlook despite the loss.
"We're almost there, we did a good job of bouncing back. We played with guts, heart and confidence. That's all you can ask for," she said. "I'm proud of my girls."