RED OAK — For a season that is quickly approaching the 30-win plateau after only four district games, the Red Oak Lady Hawks played with a little extra fire on Tuesday night at home against Mansfield Lake Ridge.
Red Oak (26-3, 4-0 in District 10-5A) defeated (24-8, 3-1) Mansfield Lake Ridge in four sets, 25-13, 25-18, 25-27, 25-15.
“We were pretty focused yesterday at practice and the girls spent some time together outside of practice last night. I think we just wanted it a little more,” said Red Oak head volleyball coach Hope Porter, who is now just three wins from career victory No. 300.
“We executed our game plan about as well as we could have,” Porter added. “I told them prior to the match that we aren’t going to stop Capri [Davis] and we aren’t going to stop Madison [Williams]. But they can only swing at one ball at a time. We just have to take the lump and go right back at them and, for the most part, the girls didn’t let it rattle them so I was proud of them for that.”
Porter said she talked with Kylie Bryan before the game about remaining disciplined on the backside of blocks with district kills leader Capri Davis (417 kills) on the other side of the net.
The senior libero entered the contest with a team-leading 409 digs on the season to just 46 errors. Bryan added 17 digs (2 errors) to that total Tuesday night.
Porter explained that in order for her team to be successful against Capri Davis (.315 hit percentage) and Madison Williams, or any other big hitters in the district, that Bryan would need to consistently “get to her base position, read the hitter and make a play.”
Davis is a University of Nebraska-commit and Williams, a sophomore who has been limited to just 16 sets this season, has verbally committed to the University of Texas.
“I think she (Bryan) got a little frustrated there in the third set when she got beat two or three times after coming out of position and kind of just going to wherever she wanted to,” Porter continued. “We talked after the set and I told her, ‘we have been successful doing this. Don’t change it.’ And she went back to it and dug two or three balls there in the fourth set that were rockets.”
PLAYING WITH SWAGGER
With a chance to close Lake Ridge in three sets, the Lady Hawks quickly found themselves in a 10-6 hole. Red Oak pulled within one, 12-11, behind strong play from Kendra Mcruffin and Katelyn Malone on the front row, but Lake Ridge's Madison Williams and Lindsay Johnson catapulted the Lady Eagles back out in front 16-11.
The Lady Hawks caught a second wind, and a dig by Kylie Bryan on a tip over a Red Oak block led to a Katie Hess kill and 15-17 deficit. Two unforced Lake Ridge errors then tied the set at 17 before a Capri Davis kill powered through a Red Oak block for an 18-17 Lady Eagle lead.
Emily North recorded a kill a few serves later to tie the set at 20. A Lady Eagle service error tied it at 21 soon after.
North then fired home an ace down the right side to give the Lady Hawks a 22-21 lead. Lake Ridge did not back down, though, and retook a one-point lead — first at 24-23 and then again at 25-24 off of a pair of Davis kills.
A tandem block by Hailey Hunt and Kennedy Wiley tied the set, again, this time at 25-all.
Lake Ridge eventually took the second set two serves later, 27-25, after the Lady Hawks were called for crossing center court and Williams sent the final dagger home.
“We let up a little in the third set, but they never stopped. They fought. They scratched. They were down by seven at one point and got it back to a two-point match going back and forth,” Porter recalled. “I think we kind of rolled that momentum into the fourth set.”
Red Oak jumped out to a 7-1 lead in set four with Bryan and Hess providing the early fireworks. Bryan recorded a dig on a (read the next word dramatically) missile sent directly in front of the Red Oak bench by Davis and Hess followed by (emphasis here, too) burying a kill in the center of the Lake Ridge defense.
“She (Bryan) made a huge defensive play for us right there. It was a rocket. It really was," stated Porter with a slight chuckle after the match.
The Lady Hawks eventually built a 10-point lead, 17-7.
Later, North recorded a kill to push to match point and Mcruffin followed with a block for the fourth-set win, 25-15.
North and Emily Smith each recorded three aces on a night when the Lady Hawks had just one service error. The two also accounted for 24 and 15 assists, respectively.
Katie Hess notched 12 kills, while North added 10, and Wiley and Hunt each tallied eight. Hunt led the Lady Hawks with seven blocks.
“What has excited me is that we have had kids step up and play a role whenever we have had a kid that we depended on go down,” Porter said. “Those kids have stepped up, come in and taken care of their business. They might not be as dynamic, but it has allowed other players to step up and be more dynamic. For me to see them come together in the face of adversity is the most exciting thing so far.”