There is a lot of youth in the form of five freshmen on the Gunter volleyball roster. A new head coach is patrolling the sidelines too.
The melding of those two pieces, plus some holdover talented upperclassmen, has the program rolling this postseason.
“I think the kids have bought in with the mentality that you have to work for every point,” Gunter head coach Katelyn Gill said. “They believe in what we’re telling them and they want to execute.”
Camryn MacDonald had 28 kills, 12 digs and four blocks and Beth Gilbreath added nine kills and a pair of blocks as the Lady Tigers defeated Farmersville, 25-22, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, in a Class 3A Region II quarterfinal match at Denison on Monday night.
Gunter (30-11) will face the winner of tonight’s Beckville-Winona match in the semifinals at 5 p.m. on Friday at Midlothian. it is the second time the Lady Tigers reached the regional tournament and the first since 2012.
“They have shown their grit in the playoffs,” Gill said. “We get down to the end of games and we keep trucking. They just get the job done.”
Farmersville (29-9) was trying to get to the fourth round for the second time in three seasons.
“We focused on what we had and what matched up well,” Gill said. “Farmersville’s a really good team and well-coached.”
Sarah Franze collected 17 digs, Lakin Satre totaled 15 digs and five kills, Jacee Childers handed out 44 assists to go with 13 digs and Alyssa Jarrell finished with eight digs as the Lady Tigers avoided a deciding fifth game with a fast start in Game 4 after Farmersville kept the match alive.
“In the huddle I told them the match isn’t won yet. You want to give them the game, they’ll take it,” Gill said.
The Lady Farmers took only a pair of leads in that frame — at 11-10 and 12-11 — before Gunter surged back in front. The Lady Tigers led 18-14 before Farmersville battled back to even at 18.
Gunter took back control immediately with a pair of points as part of a 5-1 surge to move to the brink of clinching the match. A net foul on MacDonald with what looked like the final kill only delayed the celebration as she followed with one that counted.
Farmersville used a late push to clinch Game 3 and keep its season alive. The Lady Tigers jumped to the lead before the Lady Farmers went in front and stayed there — although never by more than four points — until Gunter used a 4-0 run capped by a MacDonald ace to take a 19-17-lead.
After a timeout Farmersville scored the next six points and the advantage on the scoreboard was wide enough that Gunter’s comeback attempt came up short.
The Lady Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the match by gaining control in the latter stages of Game 2. The teams traded an advantage on the scoreboard early. Gunter had the first crack until Farmersville went in front 5-4. The Lady Tigers had it back at 13-11 and then the Lady Farmers were able to cobble together a 19-16 lead.
A much needed timeout settled down Gunter and in the blink of an eye the frame was tied at 20. The teams traded the next five points with Gilbreath’s block putting the Lady Tigers ahead to stay.
Gunter scored five of the match’s first six points only to see Farmersville answer with a 7-0 run. The game was tied three times, the last at 14, before the Lady Tigers took the lead for good. But after the Lady Farmers fell behind 20-16, they tried their best to steal the frame.
Gunter’s lead was trimmed to 22-20 before a pair of hitting errors by Farmersville provided enough breathing room.
Facing those tense situations has been a learning experience. Gunter won the first two games in its playoff opener against Leonard only to lose the third game. Relying on Franze and MacDonald to watch herd over the freshmen continues to pay off.
“I have senior leaders that are leading the way,” Gill said. “They lead in two different ways but they are so effective.”