Coming back from a two-set deficit to force a fifth set, the Denton Lady Broncos were primed to kick off their District 5-4A schedule with a momentous victory.
Unfortunately, a surge by Wichita Falls Rider midway through the deciding set proved too difficult to overcome for the Lady Broncos as they fell 25-15, 25-17, 14-25, 20-25, 15-10 at home Friday.
“I’m happy to see that they came back and took them to five,” Denton head coach Danielle Silva said. “I think we let the referees get in our head a little bit. That last set, we were playing for the refs and not playing for each other. We were getting frustrated because [Lady Raiders] were being scrappy.”
With the crowd ecstatic, the Lady Broncos had all the momentum. After falling behind two sets, Denton’s kills became more accurate, quicker and with competitive fervor.
“It was an exciting game,” Rider head coach Alysha Humpert said. “Denton is always a great team, and the crowd is always crazy. It was very challenging. It was a great win and both teams really played. The crowd really fueled both teams to play better.”
Denton jumped out to a quick 9-2 start in the third set, which forced Humpert into a timeout to settle her suddenly shaken squad. After finishing off the set with a 4-1 run, the Lady Broncos hung tough through the fourth set.
Denton held a two- to three-point advantage most of the set and eventually finished off the Lady Raiders with a 5-1 run to tie the match at two sets.
“That third and fourth set, my key hitters were a little off, and I think they were emotionally tired,” Humpert said. “They got wrapped up in the crowd a little bit, so they kind of played a little down.”
It appeared the Lady Broncos’ early 5-2 run in the fifth set would be enough to land the knockout punch, but Rider delivered its own haymaker with a controversial 10-2 run that had several Denton players looking toward the referees for their fate as they couldn’t keep up with the Lady Raiders’ focus.
“Their heads weren’t in the game,” Silva said. “This is the largest crowd that we have had and I think that got to them.”
Rider’s Taylor Caswell led her team in the fifth set with several big points, including a key ace to put them up 8-6, and according to Silva, the Lady Broncos were lucky it wasn’t worse earlier in the match.
“[Caswell] is their best player, hands down,” Silva said. “She really wasn’t doing anything the first two games and started coming alive in the fourth and turned it up in the fifth.”
Silva had inclinations heading into Friday’s game that her team was in store for a hard-fought match.
“I knew Rider was going to be difficult,” Silva said. “We lost to them twice last year. I knew we had to come out strong. I still think we are one of the top teams of the district, and I really think Byron Nelson and Guyer are going to be the other two teams to beat.”
Offensively, Gennifer Holberg, Jade Akins, Kendall Wagner had nine kills each for Denton. Holberg added four blocks and Akins had four aces. Morgan Reese also dished out 22 assists for Denton.
With the loss, the Lady Broncos fell to 14-12 on the season, but look to be in good shape for a playoff run. Last season they used a 7-5 district record to fuel them to third place. If the Lady Broncos are going to get off to a strong district start, they must reproduce last season’s success.
“I definitely don’t want to see us get off to a bad start,” Silva said. “We need to be focusing on what we need to do right and not our win-loss record. For us, it just gets in our head. We have a really strong dynamic and that’s what really makes us successful. We just gel. Even if we forget to do things right, we can get back to it.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .