It was the perfect opening night checklist for the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets.
There were signs the team improved from its scrimmages a couple of days earlier. There were things to work on with a tough tournament looming. There was a victory at the end of the match.
“They started strong. That was one of the things they struggled with in the scrimmages,” Denison head coach Jana Kelly said. “It was good to get the first one out of the way.”
Taylor Greenameyer led the Lady Jackets with 17 kills, Kiara Scott finished with 11 kills, Courtney Gillespie handed out 35 assists to go with 11 digs and Taylor Dawes totaled 13 digs as Denison defeated Whitesboro, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 25-17, in the season-opener at Denison on Tuesday night.
Qyra Ressler led the Lady Bearcats with 12 kills, seven digs and four assists, Karlee Schuessler added seven kills, 15 assists and 13 digs, Phoenix West finished with five kills and 15 assists and Maggie McCorkle totaled nine assists, seven digs and three digs.
The second set provided the Lady Jackets an opportunity to show their mettle in a year of big expectations and nine seniors on the roster. Making the playoffs last season to end a five-year drought has brought about a different focus and a bit of that was evident with how Denison responded when Whitesboro tied the match.
“Second game was sloppy. After that we played more solid and cut down our errors,” Kelly said. “You don’t like having those games but you can learn a lot from them. It’s important to come into every game prepared.”
The Lady Jackets immediately jumped to the lead by scoring five of the match’s first six points behind three kills from Greenameyer and a Gillespie ace. But Whitesboro made a 9-1 surge that included seven straight points from the Lady Bearcats.
Ressler and West had kills while Cortlyn Cobb added a block as Whitesboro turned an 8-4 deficit into an 11-9 lead.
Game 1 settled into a back-and-forth contest from there. Drew Hayes and Greenameyer put down kills for a 14-12 lead. Whitesboro came back to tie and take the lead at 16-15. Ressler gave the Lady Bearcats an 18-17 edge before Scott overpowered a block and then chipped in a kill.
The score was tied twice more, the last at 20, before Denison closed with a surge behind Greenameyer and Scott to end the game.
Whitesboro shook off the stanza and led for all but one point in Game 2. Ressler, McCorkle and Sierra Parks contributed early kills as the Lady Bearcats built up a 7-2 advantage. Kills by Scott and Greenameyer pulled the Lady Jackets within 10-8 before Whitesboro used a 6-1 run, capped by a Schuessler ace, for a 16-9 lead.
The margin proved to be too big for Denison to overcome but the Lady Jackets almost pulled it off. Taryn Gaines had a kill and Scott followed with an ace to get the margin down to three at 19-16. Whitesboro halted the momentum there and maintained the lead at 23-20. Denison got within one twice before Ressler’s kill clinched the frame for Whitesboro.
From that point on Denison almost never trailed again. Schuessler had a kill to open Game 3 for Whitesboro and then the Lady Jackets were always in front except for when Whitesboro used a 6-0 burst to tie the score at 10.
A service error quickly put Denison back ahead and Whitesboro mistakes fueled the Lady Jackets’ 9-1 run, which was helped along by Hannah Bilderback, for a 22-13 lead.
“That made a big difference,” Kelly said. “We were able to eliminate the mistakes and self-inflicted errors.”
Whitesboro forced a one-point margin three times in Game 4 — the last at 11-10 — before Denison reeled off five straight points to gain control and finish off the victory.
“I though Taryn played well. She has got some hang time that surprised me. She’s coming into her own,” Kelly said. “Hannah did a good job coming off the bench after not playing that first set.”
Next up for the Lady Jackets is the Nike ASC Classic in Denton. Denison will face Saginaw and Crowley on Thursday and then open pool play against Argyle, Frisco and Plano East on Friday. Double-elimination bracket play is Saturday.