WHITESBORO — After losing their first three district matches, the Lady Bearcats were discouraged, but not alarmed. They were in a similar spot last season and rebounded to make the playoffs.
Any early seasons struggles were in the past. The final nine matches were going to decide things.
“We’re looking at the next game, the next practice. Win or lose, come out and be prepared,” Whitesboro head coach Carissa Gabbert said. “I’m very positive with the girls. The girls may be a little down bit they’re still resilient.”
Their forward-thinking attitude helped them pick up that first district victory as Whitesboro defeated S&S, 25-23, 25-22, 25-19, in 9-3A action.
Libby Langford had seven kills and 10 digs, Cortlyn Cobb also put down seven kills, Karley Wolf added six kills, Elly Harper handed out 11 assists to go with nine digs, Aubri Falco totaled nine assists, five digs and three kills and Chesney Wolf and Ashlee Hensley each collected four digs for Whitesboro, which has the district bye Friday before playing at Pilot Point on Tuesday.
“Our big thing is playing with confidence. It’s learning to play with confidence,” Gabbert said. “We graduated five seniors so we’re kind of bringing in a new group that’s learning how to play together. We’ve had a couple injuries along the way. They’re still learning to play together.”
In a district where some of the top teams in the region reside, including defending state champ Callisburg and region finalist Gunter, playoff spots are at a premium. Whitesboro earned the last one in 2018 with a fourth-place finish and will try to make it six consecutive appearances over the next couple of weeks.
“Anybody in our district, you never underestimate anybody. It’s one of the toughest districts in the state. I think that’s a credit to everybody in our district,” Gabbert said. “We’re getting there. I’ve switched things up that have worked well. The girls are adjusting to it.”
Chelsea McDonald had seven kills and five blocks, Trinity Arrington put down seven kills, Chasey Harden handed out 14 assists and Baylee Hix totaled two kills for S&S (3-10, 0-3), which plays at Pilot Point on Friday.
Whitesboro never trailed in Game 3 but the Lady Bearcats had to hold off a late charge to keep the Lady Rams from extending the match.
It was quickly a 10-5 advantage for the home team that eventually reached a seven-point margin before S&S used a 6-0 run to pull within one at 16-15. A timeout halted the Lady Rams’ rhythm and a quick 4-0 spurt — service error, Karley Wolf kill, Falco ace, Langford kill — restored order for Whitesboro.
Game 2 turned in the middle stages after S&S had the early control. Dakota Billmeier and McDonald made plays at the net before Whitesboro was able to turn a 12-11 deficit into a 17-12 advantage. The 6-0 run, capped by an ace from Harper and a Falco block, swung the momentum back to the Lady Bearcats and they never trailed in the rest of the stanza.
S&S got within two points late but the damage was done and set Whitesboro up for a sweep.
The opening game was close throughout — only once did either team see its lead get to four points. Foe S&S that came when it was up 13-9 and 14-10 before Whitesboro started chipping away at the deficit.
Jenna King pulled the Lady Bearcats to within one and it was all even at 16 on a net foul by the Lady Rams. But it still took until another S&S hitting error at 18-all before Whitesboro could claim just its second lead of Game 1 with the previous one back at 5-4.
The Lady Bearcats managed to get some breathing room with their four-point lead at 22-19 and it was needed because Hix put down a kill, Harden followed with an ace and the Lady Rams tied it on a Whitesboro hitting error.
Points were traded before Langford’s kill put the Lady Bearcats back in front to stay and they clinched the frame on the ensuing point.