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Gunter pulls out third-round win over Rains

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Gunter's Shae Pruiett splits the block attempt by Emory Rains' Harley Kreck (12) and Katy Traylor during a Class 3A Region II quarterfinal match at Princeton. Gunter won in five games.

PRINCETON — It was the kind of scenario that allowed for flashbacks. Even if the stakes were not as high as a year ago, it could still mean the end of the Lady Tigers' season.

They were all set to advance, leading the match 2-1 and Game 4 by a 23-19 margin. But Emory Rains found a way to stave off elimination and Gunter had to quickly regroup from the fallout.

“We knew we just had to play. It comes down to willing yourself to win a ballgame,” Lady Tigers head coach Katelyn Gill said. “We just had to stay very level and make the next play. Be your very best in this moment.”

Even though the Ladycats got a final reprieve, Gunter showed its mettle with a lopsided victory in Game 5 as the Lady Tigers outlasted Rains, 13-25, 25-19, 25-16, 24-26, 15-5, in a Class 3A Region II quarterfinal match.

Rayanna Mauldin had 14 kills, Hanna Rubis added 13 kills, Miranda Putnicki chipped in 12 kills, Shae Pruiett finished with 11 kills, Nyah Ingram collected 42 digs and Jacee Childers handed out 63 assists for Gunter (27-3), which advanced to the region semifinals and will face Sabine (26-1) next week.

This is the fourth straight season the Lady Tigers have reached the fourth round and they will be trying to make the region final for the third consecutive year. With a trip to state on the line and a 2-0 lead, Gunter couldn’t hold off Van Alstyne, which rallied in five.

Emory Rains (24-3), which was trying to get past the region quarterfinals for the first time since the 1980s, had ideas of pulling off a comeback. Led by sophomore Harley Kreck, who is committed to Baylor, Chanlee Oakes and Katy Traylor, the Ladycats — whose other losses to Prairiland and Beckville also came in five games — stunned Gunter with their finish to Game 4.

“That team fought so hard,” Gill said. “They gave us everything we wanted.”

But Rains had zero momentum when the fifth game began. The Lady Tigers ripped off the first six points, half of them on kills by Rubis, before Traylor’s kill finally got the Ladycats on the board.

It turned out to be just a speed bump. Audrey Curtis stepped to the service line and another 6-0 burst ensued when kills by Mauldin, Putnicki and Pruiett stretched the lead to 12-1.

“There were a bunch of girls that stepped up when we needed to,” Gill said. “She is the epitome of hard work translating into playing such a key role and it speaks to how much of a team effort this was.”

Rains never threatened in an anti-climatic finish to such a dramatic match.

There was plenty of drama in how the Ladycats pulled out Game 4.

Gunter had the early advantage and when Pruiett beat a block it was a 9-5 lead. Kreck then led a charge which put Rains in front at 12-11. After the score was tied at 14, Putnicki and Mauldin helped give the Lady Tigers a 20-17 lead. A pair of hitting errors pulled Rains within one before Gunter scored the next four points thanks to Beth Gilbreath and Mauldin.

It was 23-19 and an air of inevitability descended on the gym. The Lady Tigers needed two points before Rains could score six. But the Ladycats went down swinging. Kreck had two kills to open a 5-0 run, the last a kill by Traylor to give Rains a 24-23 lead.

Rubis tied it on a kill but a Gunter hitting error and a Traylor ace kept Rains alive.

“They knew we weren’t pleased with how things went,” Gill said. “We had some leads slip that we needed to finish off.”

The Ladycats had their backs against the wall because Gunter won Games 2 and 3.

Rains’ last lead in the second stanza was at 5-4, which is when Gunter notched five straight points. Putnicki was in the middle of a 4-1 burst that forced a Rains timeout when it got to 13-8.

When the Ladycats tied the score at 17 thanks to five consecutive points, Gunter immediately responded with a 4-0 spurt to reclaim the lead for good.

Game 3 turned on a run in the middle of the action. Rains had its last lead at 7-6. A quick 4-0 extended Gunter's margin to 14-9 and then moments later the Lady Tigers ripped off six points at the start of an 8-1 push for a double-digit lead at 22-12.

Rains took the opener thanks to an 8-0 run which took a 7-5 lead and stretched it to double digits. Gunter’s only lead in Game 1 came on Putnicki’s kill at the start. The Ladycats notched the next four points and were never threatened after going up 15-5.

“We started in a different rotation than we normally do for the matchup,” Gill said. “It just didn’t work for us and that’s why it looked so flat.”

Region quarterfinals

Class 3A Region II

Gunter                    3

Emory Rains          2