Sherman had its playoff hopes come down to the final week but the Lady Bearcats went into their last match on the schedule knowing there would be no postseason, falling agonizingly short of going from last to the playoffs in the span of a year.

Sherman had its playoff hopes come down to the final week but the Lady Bearcats went into their last match on the schedule knowing there would be no postseason, falling agonizingly short of going from last to the playoffs in the span of a year.


The consolation prize turned out to be a pretty good one as Sherman defeated Denison, 25-21, 25-14, 25-18, to close out District 13-4A action at Denison on Tuesday night and sweep the season series against its rival.


"When we knew there wasn’t a chance, that become the focus," Sherman head coach Cynthia Bruton said. "Last year we only got one. It was definitely something we talked about."


Kelsey Lillis had 13 kills and Jayzhia Softly added nine kills, two blocks and four digs for Sherman (22-14, 7-7), which finished fifth in the district standings — a game back of Wylie East for the final playoff berth — by rebounding from a 24-loss season.


"We had some key injuries at critical times," Bruton said. "It’s always going to be one of those what-could-have-been things."


Caroline LeCrone chipped in seven kills and four digs, Madison Winslett totaled eight kills and nine digs, Kelsey Jarvis collected 32 digs, Sami Powers handed out 32 assists and Mary Kate Motley finished with 17 assists for the Lady Bearcats.


Jamiah Ballard had 11 kills and four digs, Dee Harris put down five kills, Melanie Garcia handed out 11 assists, Lexi Williams collected eight digs and Sara Shumaker finished with nine assists and six digs for Denison (7-30, 1-13). It was Senior Night for Harris, Stasia Dunlap, Katie Mithlo and Nicole Swindell.


"I thought the girls came to play," Denison head coach Sandy McMillan said. "The seniors stepped up. They shouldn’t have any regrets."


Sherman raced out to the early lead with five straight points to start the match as Lillis did the damage at the net. Another 5-0 spurt had the Lady Bearcats holding an 11-2 advantage.


"They looked a little too confident," Bruton said. "They looked like they had it won."


From that point on Denison started chipping away at the deficit. Mithlo overpowered a block, Ballard put down a kill and Kaycie Hamilton chipped in a kill as the Lady Jackets got within two at 13-11. Denison didn’t get closer until an ace by Swindell made it 19-17. A few moments later the game was tied at 20.


They fought hard," McMillan said. "I though the last set they fought too."


The Lady Bearcats maintained their composure and took advantage of Denison hitting errors to take the next three points and claim the opener on a Softly kill.


Sherman jumped to big leads in the next two games but this time avoided a similar fate.


"We did not let it happen again," Bruton said. "We finished strong."


Winslett’s kill gave Sherman a 13-4 lead in Game 2 and the Lady Bearcats followed with a 5-0 run for a 12-point advantage. Denison could never get the deficit to single digits, with the closest being 21-11 before Softly overpowered a block attempt.


It took a mid-game run in Game 3 for Sherman to finish off Denison. The Lady Bearcats held the advantage at 13-6 and maintained that lead when LeCrone sandwiched aces around a Denison hitting error to make it 21-12.


Ballard had a late flurry of kills but Sherman was never threatened with the prospect of a fourth game and went on to end its season with a sweep.


While the Lady Bearcats lose Lillis, Softly, Jarvis and Powers to graduation, coming as close as they did to the playoffs provided a tangible goal for next season.


"I’ve got nothing but promise for the future," Bruton said.


With a young core returning for the Lady Jackets and the prospect of a new district in realignment, McMillan has hope for where the program can go next season.


"I’ve got some pieces there. And a good group of eighth graders," she said. "We’re looking to the future."