By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – In its final gear-up before the start of District 12-5A play Friday, the Harker Heights volleyball team got a much-needed morale boost thanks to a four-game victory over one-win Waco on Tuesday.
With dreams of breaking its recent postseason slump and advancing to the playoffs under first-year coach Chris Wiley, the Lady Knights again put it all together at home for a 25-18, 25-8, 17-25, 25-19 victory against an inexperienced Lady Lions squad.
"I feel like, right now, the team is probably about halfway where we need to be. We still need to work on a lot of the small mistakes that we make – a lot of the mental letdowns that we have in games," Wiley said. "But I feel, right now, going into district, we're right about where we need to be to be competitive for a playoff spot and that's why you play the game."
Seeking to be one of the district's top four teams at the end of the regular season and snap a three-year hiatus from the playoffs, Heights notched its third home win in four chances with a good balance of powerful play along the front line and solid defense from the back row.
Contributing offensively to the effort were junior middle hitter Bianca Patterson, who led the way with eight kills and five blocks, and junior setter Taylor Denney, who had seven assists, while the senior combination of libero Darcy Parks and outside hitter Katie Garrard had 13 and 8 digs, respectively.
"Bianca's our go-to in the middle, whenever we need her when we can get the ball to her, she can put it away," Wiley said. "She's a smart player and does a good job, not only offensively, she does a great job defensively with her blocks."
After a back-and-forth battle in the first game, the Lady Knights (7-9) jumped out to a commanding 15-3 advantage in Game 2 thanks to the strong serving of Denney and senior Elecia Jackson. Heights then closed out the easy win by scoring on 10 of the next 15 serves.
"That all comes back to good, strong defense and good serving," Wiley said. "Something I've worked on with the girls since we started was being out there and being able to hit your serves, as well as hit your serves to a spot."
But the Lady Lions weren't going to go away quietly as they bounced back for a 25-17 victory in Game 3. Taking advantage of several miscues and serving errors by the Lady Knights, Waco went on a 9-1 run that put the Lady Lions ahead 15-8 midway through the game, a lead they wouldn't surrender.
"When you get up like that, especially coming off a big win like we had in Game 2, you just have letdowns sometimes," Wiley said.
Heights went back to their strong service play in the final game, as Garrard nailed an ace on her first serve to begin a 7-0 run that quickly gave the Lady Knights a 9-1 advantage. The Lady Knights were able to maintain a solid lead despite a late 6-1 rally by Waco that brought the score to 20-18 in favor of Heights. And with an ace by Jackson and a powerful kill from junior outside hitter Anna Gibbons, Heights closed out its victory on a 5-1 run of its own.
The Lady Knights will begin their charge toward the postseason Friday when they travel to Bryan for the District 12-5A opener for both schools.
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566.