Having two teams looking to get on track after early stumbles in the District 5-5A volleyball race only added to Tuesday’s rivalry match between the Sherman Lady Cats and Denison Lady Yellow Jackets.
As would be expected in a rivalry, the match went down to the wire before Sherman emerged with a 19-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-25, 15-10 victory at Bearcat Gymnasium.
Sherman (24-5, 1-1) never trailed in the fifth set, fighting off Denison comebacks that twice cut the margin to one point before closing it out with a 6-2 run.
Sherman setter Dallas Aleman — who finished with 37 assists, 14 digs and two aces — said pulling out the match on the Lady Cats’ home floor, and thus avoiding an 0-2 district state, was important.
“We needed to win because we can be one of the top teams in the district,” she said. “We know our our ability, but we don’t put it in play a lot.
“I was really excited that we won tonight. We actually played together as a team, communicated well and played hard to our full potential.”
Denison head coach Jana Kelly said that with 10 district matches remaining, the Lady Jackets (19-8, 0-2) are by no means out of the playoff picture.
“It’s still early in district,” Kelly said. “I told the girls before the game that tonight was going to come down to who made fewer errors. That’s what it literally came down to. (Sherman) made fewer errors than we did.
“We played hard. We had great effort. I couldn’t have asked for more. The errors that we made, the girls were trying to be aggressive. They were trying to hit the holes that were there, we just missed a few.”
By the same token, Sherman head coach Ashley Aleman said, the Lady Cats have a lot left to do before securing a postseason berth.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Sherman, which defeated Denison 25-22, 25-16 on Aug. 26 to claim the championship of the Whitesboro Invitational, was led by Kylie Jackman with 15 kills and Madi Gladen with 13. Rylie Bernard and Sarah Graham each had seven kills.
Cameron Wecker recorded a match-high 27 digs for Sherman, while Graham also had three blocks. Bernard made 15 digs and Gladen made 14 in addition to posting two service aces.
Denison was led by Kiara Scott with 20 kills while Taylor Greenameyer had 18 kills and four blocks and Taryn Gaines added nine kills and five blocks.
Courtney Gillespie recorded 35 assists, while the Lady Jackets had five players finish in double figures in digs. Scott and Greenameyer each had 22 digs, followed by Taylor Dawes with 19, Kaylee Walters with 18 and Gillespie with 12. Kenli Powell had nine digs, finishing just one shy of giving Denison a full lineup in double figures.
Ashley Aleman said the key for the Lady Cats was being able to adjust repeatedly throughout the match.
“Adjusting to what they were bringing at us and trying to adjust our game so we could find a whole in the court and find some way to get some momentum and get a run going,” she said.
The fact that many of those adjustments had to be made with the ball in play was a testament to Sherman’s experience, Aleman said.
“That’s why we’re in a good spot with experienced players on the court this year,” she said. “They’ve been in that situation, so they know what adjustments are needed at certain times. The experience of the team is what got us through that.”
Both teams struggled to gain momentum, but for the most part maintained it once in the lead. The teams played a full rotation to start the match before either scored a point off serve and each set remained close until one side gained a bit of separation.
“Momentum was hard to get today,” Kelly said. “We just had to make sure that when we scored we got excited and we were encouraging and we stayed upbeat. When they got a point, we had to make sure we just buckled down and stopped their momentum.
“For the most part, we did that. I think the most they scored on a run was six points in Set 3. It was just back and forth the whole game. It was a good match. It was fun to watch.”
Denison made the first surge, using a 9-1 run to build a 22-14 lead in the first game. Sherman returned the favor in the second game, using a 7-2 run to go up 16-11 and scoring the last four points to even the match.
In the third game, Sherman made a comeback that was essentially the difference in the match. Denison led 20-15 on the strength of a 6-1 run, but Sherman scored the next six points to go in front 21-20 and finished the set in a 10-3 run.
The Lady Jackets led most of the way in the fourth game, using a 10-5 run to take an 18-11 advantage on the way to extending the match.
In the fifth game, Sherman scored the first two points and led the rest of the way, but Denison stayed close at 8-7 and 9-8. The Lady Cats scored the next four points to pull away before Jackman’s tip fell for match point.