Pilot Point’s Becky Phillips has seen plenty of Denton High volleyball teams during her time as a head coach in North Texas, and there’s one thing that sets this year’s Lady Broncos squad apart from all the others.
“That’s the best DHS team I’ve ever seen,” Phillips said Tuesday after watching Denton sweep her team 25-12, 25-14, 25-11 in the final nondistrict match for both teams. “I watched them play at the Ryan tournament and I told [Denton coach] Danielle [Silva] then that I thought they were the best Denton team I had seen.”
That’s high praise from a coach who led Pilot Point to the Class 3A area playoffs last year and whose team this year won its division in the Ryan tournament, finished third in the Prosper tournament and won last weekend’s Whitesboro tournament.
But Pilot Point (17-5) ran into a Lady Broncos team that was impressive in every aspect of its game, particularly at the net.
“They shut us down,” Phillips said. “They shut our hitting down. They passed well. Our big hitter got blocked a couple of times. I knew they would come out hungry.”
The Lady Broncos jumped on Pilot Point in the first set, opening a 12-3 lead en route to a quick win.
The second set started more evenly. Denton led 8-6 before a kill by Jade Akins started a 6-1 DHS run. Pilot Point took advantage of two Denton errors and an ace from Kirby Smith to spark a 4-0 run to get within 14-11. But Denton took over, outscoring the Lady Bearcats 11-3 the rest of the way.
The third set was more of the same. Denton staked an 11-2 lead and pushed the advantage to 18-5 before closing out the match.
Kendall Wagner finished with 10 kills, Akins had nine kills and Gennifer Holberg had six. Setter Morgan Reese finished with 28 assists.
That’s exactly the type of performance Silva wanted to see from her team entering what will be a tough District 5-4A schedule.
“We played cohesive; we played as a team,” Silva said. “We played all points of the game and played very, very well. We definitely needed a night like this to start us off right going into district. But we have not peaked by any means.”
The Lady Broncos (14-11) open district play Friday at home against Wichita Falls Rider and are looking to advance to the playoffs for the second straight season. Last year, they lost to Dumas in the first round.
Wagner leads the team with 168 kills, while Akins, a 5-foot-10 sophomore with a 26-inch vertical leap, is second with 135 kills. Silva has been especially pleased with the play of Akins, complementing the leadership of veterans Holberg, Reese and Wagner.
“She has really improved her defense,” Silva said of Akins. “With experience, she’s gotten better at seeing the play after the block and knowing where to go. She has such drive, such a work ethic. She’s not even started to play as good as she will by the time her high school career is over.”
Akins, who was on the varsity team as a freshman, admits she needed to improve her attitude from last season.
“I was immature and frustrated,” she said. “I knew I had to work on my attitude. It was not that great. Everyone on the team has helped.
“We played as a team tonight. I thought we played really tough. We didn’t want to hold anything back.”