Ryan trailed Denton by six points late in the second set Tuesday and looked like it was in for a long night against its crosstown rival. Apparently, the Lady Raiders were just getting warmed up.
Senior outside hitter Taylor Terry poured in 14 kills for Ryan, which used an improbable 10-1 run to steal the second set and fuel a 25-21, 25-22, 25-15 sweep at Billy Ryan Gym. Denton, which came into the night having won three straight, was looking to tie the match when it took a 21-15 lead.
Ryan's rally changed the entire dynamic of the match, though, as the Lady Raiders continued their surge in what amounted to a 21-5 run between the end of the second set and start of the third.
"One thing about these girls is that they have a lot of fire," Ryan coach Nicole Hervey said. "If you can light it, you get 10-1 runs like what we saw. Tonight I figured out how to light it."
Ryan's comeback started shortly after Hervey called a timeout late in the second set. Sarah Grant scored three of her team's next four points to trim the Denton lead to three points. Kills from Terry and Kannessia Holbert, followed by a Denton error, knotted the score at 22 before Ryan (27-12, 9-1 District 5-5A) scored the final three points for the 2-0 match lead.
Ryan didn't trail the rest of the way and jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the third. Ashley Schroeder finished with 12 kills and two blocks while Grant added eight kills. Taylor Brann chipped in 41 assists and Kenzi Valadez added 19 digs.
Denton coach Gerry Standridge said Ryan's run at the end of the second set was too much.
"It really did take the wind out of our sail," Standridge said. "We thought we had that second set won, but we didn't. I thought the girls fought extremely hard, but now we need to buckle down over the next two games and try to sneak into the playoffs."
Before Ryan's rally, the match was tightly contested and Denton didn't appear fazed by its district-leading counterpart. Taylor Thomas finished the night leading Denton with 14 kills, 16 digs and eight assists while Leah Stolfus chipped in six kills, two blocks and three digs. Sophie Audirsch added 14 assists.
Neither team led by more than three points for the majority of the first set. Ryan won that opening frame, but quickly fell behind by four in the second. The Lady Broncos still led by two when they went on a 5-1 run for a 21-15 lead.
After that, it was all Ryan.
"Volleyball is such a momentum sport," Hervey said. "I was proud of the girls for fighting back."
Ryan has now won two in a row since its loss to Wichita Falls Rider. Both those teams are tied for first place, and Hervey said there will be a seeding game next Friday if there is still a tie at the end of the district schedule. Meanwhile, Denton (4-6 district) is still alive in the playoff chase as it closes the season against Wichita Falls and Sherman.
"The loss we had against Rider came at the right time," Hervey said. "I think these girls have reacted the way I would want them too. Now we will try to win these next two and see what happens after that."
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.