By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
The Bryan bench was beaten already.
The Lady Vikings didn't cheer, didn't get pumped up, They just looked sullenly down at the ground as their coach, Caroline Simpson, clapped her hands emphatically and tried to get them back in the match.
But, all of the emotion and momentum belonged to the Ellison Lady Eagles, whose cheers echoed throughout the gym after they had just sent the match with the Lady Vikings to a deciding Game 5.
Roaring and ready, the Lady Eagles jumped out to a 9-2 lead and finished off their rally to defeat Bryan 14-25, 25-19, 21-25, 26-24, 15-11 Tuesday at Ellison.
"(Our outward emotion) kept us pumped up," said Ellison middle blocker Chelsea Grant. "When we are up and everyone is into it, the game makes a U-turn. Tonight we all had a good feeling and we really needed to this game. So, we just had to bring it."
Ellison (16-21, 6-6 12-5A) battled back from a 12-7 deficit in Game 3 as Megan McKinnon and Grant each had kills to tie the match late, Grant's coming at 21-21. However, the Lady Eagles made four straight attack errors - three of them going long - to hand Bryan (17-22, 6-6) the game and what looked like the match.
But Ellison came out on fire in Game 4. Grant, who finished with 21 kills and eight blocks, and McKinnon, who added 19 kills, teamed up on back-to-back attacks to put Ellison up 5-2 and then Kaitlyn Shearer and Ocleta Young teamed up on a block for a 9-3 advantage.
Bryan, though, rallied after three straight Ellison errors to pull within two, 17-15. And when Jessica Pfeffer sent a kill down past the Lady Eagles' back row, Bryan was up by three, 23-20.
That's when Ellison's emotions brought out the best in them.
Grant crushed a kill down the heart of the Lady Viking defense and then teamed up with McKinnon on a block to pull within one.
Still, Reagan Boenker, who led Bryan with 21 kills, came on strong, tipping a shot over the Ellison frontline to put Bryan on matchpoint.
It was her last one of the match.
"She is the one that hurt us when we went to Bryan and we had to shut her down and take the line," said Ellison coach William De Gracia. "In the beginning, we weren't covering that line and then we picked it up and she started getting a little frustrated."
McKinnon was still riding high from the block, though, and on the next play sent a scorching kill down the line.
And after a drop shot by Grant tied the game at 24-24, McKinnon finished off the Lady Vikings both in the game and emotionally with a pair of kills that sent the match to Game 5.
"Our setters had really good sets tonight, and one of the things they do well is if you hit it out, they will give it right back to you," McKinnon said. "We can redeem ourselves and we did that tonight."
Once there, Ellison rolled.
The Lady Eagles opened Game 5 with kills from Grant, McKinnon, Shearer and Kortni Taylor to jump out to an impressive 9-2 lead. Some over-excitable errors let Bryan pull within 14-10.
However, with the game on the line, Grant blasted a final kill into the unexpecting face of a Bryan defender, sending her hurdling backward into a somersault.
"The girls did not give up ... I always tell them it is a mental game," De Gracia said. "If you believe you are going to win, then there is a 99.9 possibility you are going to win. But, you can't give up.
"They came up and played."
With the win, Ellison is now in a three-way tie with Temple and Bryan for the third and fourth playoff spot.
"Even those that didn't get hyped up were into it," Grant said. "Even Darian (Barbow) ... she is the quiet calm one and she was in it. So we were like 'if she is in it, then this is a really big game.'
McKinnon added: "We knew this was a must win."