It’s been three years since Guyer and Denton met on the volleyball court when then-coaches Jennifer Bramlett and Heather Stewart and their teams squared off, with Guyer often getting the upper hand.
Now, both programs have second-year head coaches who had never been a part of the Guyer-Denton rivalry until Tuesday night, when the teams played a crucial District 5-4A match at Wildcat Gymnasium.
The new faces on the sidelines weren’t the only difference from a few years ago, as the Lady Broncos got the upper hand with a hard-fought, come-from-behind five-set victory over Guyer.
“This is really big for us,” Denton head coach Danielle Silva said. “One of our goals this season — we played Ryan in a tournament and beat them — so our other goal, knowing Guyer was in our district, was to beat them.”
The Lady Broncos (15-12, 1-1) won the match 25-23, 15-25, 14-25, 25-22, 15-8, after they came out swinging to take the first set before folding and letting Guyer take the next two sets with relative ease.
The fourth set also started heavily in Guyer’s favor as the Lady Wildcats (14-11, 1-1) led by as many as five points early on behind a string of aces from Kasey Nicholson. But after that, the tide started to turn.
With the set tied at 21-all, Denton got an ace from Morgan Reese and an emphatic, set-clinching kill from senior right-side hitter Gennifer Holberg.
“You can never underestimate my team,” Silva said. “If we are down, we are not done. We will come back, and we will fight. We’re really great about doing that. Something just clicks and we can turn it on.”
While Silva has grown accustomed to her team having positive swings after negative ones, Guyer head coach Addie Mack saw the opposite from her team Tuesday night.
“We’ve been struggling with completing what we start and being mentally strong,” Mack said. “That’s exactly what happened to us tonight. Mentally, they lost sight of what needed to be taken care of and just started unraveling.”
After narrowly taking the fourth set to stay alive in the match, the fifth and decisive set belonged to the Lady Broncos from the beginning.
In that set, Denton got some much-needed help up front from sophomore outside hitter Jade Akins, who played sparingly early in the match after she struggled to find her groove.
“We’re working on consistency with her,” Silva said. “She was just off in the first few sets, so I had someone else out there, then brought her back in to see what she could do.”
Silva was not disappointed as Akins tallied three kills in the fifth set.
“She turned it up, and I was like, ‘Thank you. Finally. This is the person I know and love,’” Silva said. “We need all our key players in the front row. We have three main hitters, and we need them all on. She really stepped up and I was excited for that.”
While it was her sophomore that had a lot to do with Denton’s surge in the fifth set, it was one of her senior captains who ended the match with a resounding kill from Holberg that resulted in the Lady Broncos’ bench coming unglued.
“That was amazing,” Holberg said, still a bit speechless. “I love that.
“I want to be able to have my setters trust me in that clutch situation to be able to set me and know I’m going to get it in.”
Holberg finished the match with a team-high 10 kills, while Akins added seven and Reese put up 18 assists. Senior Kendall Wagner had seven kills and 13 digs.
For Guyer, Jasmine Montemayor had a match-high 12 kills with seven digs and Mikayla Yates added nine kills. Junior setter Madison Walford recorded 29 assists and eight digs.
Mack took her hat off to Denton’s resiliency when it seemed as though the Lady Wildcats would run away with the match in the middle sets.
“They got their energy and ran with the momentum and took advantage,” Mack said. “That says a lot for them.”
Aside from the Lady Broncos beating its second Denton ISD opponent this season, Silva knew the match was big from a district standings perspective, as well, as they avoided an 0-2 start with another tough team, Trophy Club Nelson, coming up Friday.
“We have the toughest competitors, I think, in our district in our first three games,” Silva said. “We had [Wichita Falls] Rider [which beat Denton in five sets], Guyer and then Byron Nelson on Friday. That’s great for us to be 1-1 instead of 0-2. We have Byron Nelson next, and they’re tough, but if we can play like we did when we were on, I like our chances.”
On the contrary, Holberg realized the importance of avoiding the 0-2 start but said beating Guyer was a pretty big deal in itself, even though she had never played the Lady Wildcats in her three years on varsity.
“It’s a city rivalry,” the 6-foot-1 Holberg said. “We may have never played them before, but you still feel like you have to win.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .