By Princess McDowell
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – Harker Heights started dominant, but couldn't finish, as the Lady Knights lost to Ellison in five games, 14-25, 25-12, 25-15, 20-25, 15-10, Tuesday at home.
Heights coach Tiffani Walker said her team has had trouble starting matches, and have worked to correct it by talking about playing with fire and enthusiasm from the beginning.
"We had that fire in the first game," she said.
Ellison couldn't do much to slow the Knights. Harker Heights played with increased focus and determination, running and diving for every ball and feeding off the crowd's energy.
However, by the second and third games, that excess energy was gone, and Ellison won both by 13 and 10 points respectively.
It seemed like Ellison would cruise to the victory from there, but Heights had other plans. Down 13-8, the Knights came back to score 12 of the next 13 points behind consistent serving from Katie Garrard and Jasmine Purnell. The game four victory tied the teams at two games apiece, setting up a decisive fifth game.
"We kind of let them back in in the fourth game and that helped them in the fifth game," Walker said. "They were excited about starting a match well that we relaxed."
The Knights looked poised to win that one, too, ahead 7-5 and the Lady Eagles visibly frustrated. Ellison coach Kara Clay said she reiterated to her team in the huddle how the Knights wouldn't give the game away.
"I just told them that Heights isn't going to just lay down," she said. "We have to answer back to them."
Ellison tied the game at 8, and then pulled ahead behind a kill by Jasmine Whetstone. Harker Heights would do themselves in, however, committing eight hitting errors late.
Clay said her team did a good job of competing and staying focused despite a raucous crowd.
Jasmine Whetstone had a few timely kills for Ellison and Clay said she played well.
"They were focused on Isis (Gardner) so we needed her to answer and put the ball down," she said.
Gardner led the Lady Eagles with 12 kills while Jasmine Johnson had six.
On Heights' side, though disappointed with the loss, Walker said senior Jasmine Tucker was solid the entire match and senior Jasmine Purnell provided a lot of fire.
"If I had to pick two standouts from tonight, those would be it," she said.
Tucker led Harker Heights with 12 kills and 13 digs. Junior Laci Keene posted eight kills. Purnell added six kills. Senior setter Madison Gustke had 19 assists.