LONGVIEW – With a potential playoff spot on the line – even this early in the District 16-4A schedule – and everything, including a Spring Hill-partisan crowd, in the corner of the Lady Panthers, Kilgore High School volleyball didn’t wilt under pressure.
In fact, the Lady Bulldogs welcomed it. And overcame it.
As they’ve done in four of their last five games, Kilgore played well into the night Tuesday at Spring Hill, going five sets with the home team with a 16-4A decision on the line, one that could very well be important later in the season when tiebreakers matter most.
Only four teams from each district make the playoffs, and that team in the fourth slot must face the champion of another district in the first round.
Kilgore rose to the occasion, going back in forth with the Lady Panthers, but ultimately winning, 25-21, 17-25, 24-26, 25-15, 16-14 marathon that was as grueling as it sounds. Kilgore (11-12 on the season to date, 2-1 in district play with wins over Gilmer and Spring Hill) hosts newcomer Cumberland Academy on Friday, starting with varsity at 4:30 p.m.
Coach Madeline Harris, in her first season at KHS but a former University of Oklahoma standout and longtime volleyball coach, was in the battle as well, it seemed, disputing what seemed to be one call after another – many that went against Kilgore. The atmosphere was intense, as intense as the one three weeks ago at former district foe Pine Tree, where Kilgore earned a once-unthinkable sweep of the Lady Pirates.
Kilgore showed a fire Tuesday night it hadn’t really shown this year, fighting back from two sets down (after three) to win the fourth and fifth sets. Kilgore also had to withstand a Spring Hill comeback – KHS led the fifth set, 4-0, before the Lady Panthers pushed them to the brink.
Miah Thomas led the Lady ‘Dogs in kills (13), and Jada Abercrombie was one back (12). Dayton McElyea had six, Skye Cotton had three, and Alexis Anderson and Lauren Couch each had two. Abercrombie had 25 digs, many of them down the stretch after the third set, and Thomas had 14; McElyea had 12.
Thomas had seven blocks, and Ashton Vallery had 20 assists; McElyea had 12.