The Guyer Lady Wildcats may end up not winning the District 5-4A championship, but they just might be the best volleyball team in the league right now.
First-place Trophy Club Byron Nelson came into Friday’s match against Guyer undefeated in 10 district matches and riding a 16-match winning streak. The Lady Bobcats, who had lost only one set in district this season, were two games up on Guyer in the district race and in position to clinch at least a tie for the league crown.
It was Guyer, however, that put a damper on Nelson’s run through district, handing the Lady Bobcats their first loss in a thrilling five-set match 23-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-18, 16-14.
“We know what’s working for us,” said Guyer’s second-year coach Addie Mack, whose team won its sixth straight match. “We are hitting our stride and going with it. We’re hitting the ball well. We’re playing better defense. We’re finding out what we’re made of. We’re getting better at the right time.”
Guyer (23-12, 9-2) will likely not catch Nelson (29-12, 10-1) for the district title with only three matches left in the regular season, but the Lady Wildcats showed they are ready to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. Prior to that, they had a run of three straight appearances that included two district titles and a trip the regional semifinals.
The win over Nelson in the fourth set Friday gave them a boost of momentum and confidence heading into the deciding set.
Guyer led by three points four times in the final set, including going to match point, 14-11, after a shot by Nelson’s Eva Koster went wide. Two kills by Nelson’s Elizabeth Pennington and a poor return by Guyer tied the match at 14. Mikayla Yates put the Lady Wildcats back at match point with her kill from the left side. The teams battled on the next point through four volleys before Guyer’s Emily Gorr dove for a save that sailed back over the net. Koster’s return was long and the Wildcats celebrated.
“The girls honestly put into play what we practiced,” Mack said. “We knew what we were up against with each of their girls and what we had to do to contribute. Our focus was on stopping their girls. Our defense did an outstanding job.”
Yates had a strong outing among a host of Wildcats. She finished with 19 kills, but Mack was just as impressed with Yates’ leadership.
“She was so intense, so much raw emotion,” Mack said. “She wanted the ball. She wanted to be wherever the ball was so she could contribute. She has really stepped up her game.”
Tabitha Spray had 11 kills, Gorr had 21 digs, and Madison Walford finished with 19 digs and 40 assists for Guyer.
Nelson, which advanced to the regional quarterfinals last season, has matches left with Wichita Falls (6-4 going into Friday), Wichita Falls Rider (5-5) and Brewer (2-8). Unless the Lady Bobcats fall apart, they will likely still win district.
“A lot of things caught up to us tonight,” Nelson head coach Libby Pacheco said. “Two of our hitters didn’t do a very good job. We made too many errors and we let them keep the ball in play. Guyer played a very good game.”
Pacheco added that the loss might be wake-up call for her team.
“We might have needed this as a reminder of what’s ahead for us,” she said. “Everyone is going to be go after us hard and we need to respond.”
Haley Tippett led Nelson with 22 kills, while Pennington added 20. Abby Van Houten finished with 52 assists.