FORT WORTH — In the area round of the Class 4A state playoffs, the Denton Lady Broncos ran into an offensive buzz saw as their hopes of an extended playoff run came to a close Friday with a 25-10, 25-12, 25-13 loss to the Aledo Ladycats at Fort Worth Brewer.
With several seniors departing and many of them starters, this season’s team had much to be proud of as they made the playoffs for the second consecutive season thanks to a clutch winning streak to end the season.
“I told them that this game doesn’t define our season,” Denton head coach Danielle Silva said. “We know this game is the ending of the season. It hurts that it’s ending like this. Some of the goals this season were to beat Guyer. We did that. Another one of our goals was to make the playoffs and we achieved that. We made it past bi-district, too. I’m just proud of our girls, and they are like my family away from family.”
Denton, who finished at 23-18, jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first set with two kills from senior Gennifer Holberg, who had six kills in the game. However, Aledo (37-5) answered with a quick four-point run of its own. After Holberg added another kill, Aledo’s offense erupted for an 11-0 run, giving the Ladycats a 15-5 lead.
“I think every time we tried to play, it wasn’t working,” Silva said. They were kind of out of it. We had some moments of greatness with Jade [Akins] and Gennifer hitting well tonight.
The Lady Broncos fought back to 16-8, but Aledo finished the first set with a 9-2 run.
“That was the best middle offense, hands down, I’ve seen this year,” Silva said of the Ladycats. “Their arm swings were quick and so was their tempo. We were capable of defending it, but they just had a good offense, and we couldn’t keep up.”
The Lady Broncos jumped out to a 6-4 lead in the second set, but Aledo’s middle hitters began to take over and force Denton’s defense into a multitude of precarious positions.
Senior Briana Sharratt led the Ladycats’ stout middle offense with 12 kills with senior Sara Smith also adding seven kills. Junior outside hitter Raygan McLelland’s 11 kills helped round out a well-balanced attack. Senior Mallory Powell facilitated the offense with 31 assists.
“We are a middle-running offensive team, and we are going to feed her [Sharratt] as much as we can to get her the ball, so that is going to be key for us down the road,” Aledo head coach Kathy Goings said. “Our setter does a good job moving the ball around. We shared the wealth and moved the ball around quite a bit.”
Aledo then used a 14-4 run to bust open the second set as the front line converted on most of their opportunities, which forced Denton into tougher digs than they were used to. With an 18-10 lead, the Ladycats finished out the set on a 7-2 run to take a commanding two-set advantage.
The Ladycats then used their serving game, which recorded 16 aces on the night, to take a quick 4-0 lead. Three aces by Sharratt capped a 10-4 run that saw the Denton defense scrambling all over the court.
Goings noted that Aledo’s game plan was to take away Akins, who had seven kills and 10 digs, by using their tools in the serving game to detract from Denton’s offense setting up Akins for her outside opportunities.
“We knew we needed to shut down number 10 [Akins],” Goings said. “We know she is probably their best hitter and she is a powerful hitter. We needed to serve aggressively to keep it away from setting her too much, and I think we did a good job serving aggressive tonight. That’s what you want to do against almost every team.”
Aledo’s forceful serving tactics, in the third set in particular, neutralized Denton’s offense to the point that the Lady Broncos were unable to string two points together until Holberg’s kill made it 17-8. The Ladycats then rattled off their final eight kills of the set, with McLelland’s kill putting an end to the Lady Broncos’ season.
“They had pretty aggressive servers, and we just had a hard time receiving,” Silva said. “We needed to get our body behind the ball and get back to our basics. We didn’t have nearly enough opportunities to run our offense and that kept us from running their offense and it was a ripple effect.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .