When the Denton Lady Broncos needed to catch fire, they did.
After falling to 4-6 in District 5-4A play, the Lady Broncos put together a four-match winning streak to finish their season, helping them secure a playoff spot for the second straight year by finishing third in the district at 8-6.
Denton (22-17) put the finishing touches on its run to the playoffs on senior night, defeating the Lake Dallas Lady Falcons 25-22, 18-25, 25-22, 25-21 on Tuesday night at Denton High School.
With her team learning from its first district go-around, Denton head coach Danielle Silva said it was primarily a spike in focus that helped the Lady Broncos finish their season on a high note.
“Toward the end of the first run of district, we lost focus, but we came back and refocused and were re-energized,” Silva said. “Tonight, my team was there. We had a goal, and we achieved our goal. They [seniors] played great. Gennifer Holberg had a fabulous game. Kendall Wagner had a fabulous game. Morgan Reese had a great game. Those three are my captains and they really stepped it up tonight.”
It was those three seniors who propelled the Lady Broncos in their final regular-season match.
Wagner led Denton with 16 kills and 19 digs, while Holberg added 15 kills. Reese, meanwhile, led the Lady Broncos with 34 assists and 13 digs. Sophomore Jade Akins also had 14 kills and 16 digs.
“Our outsides are just phenomenal,” Silva said. “They really stepped up. On the right side, Gennifer stepped up and really earned some points for us tonight. Our middles played a role tonight and they were effective. Morgan Reese ran the ball well, set the ball to the right teammates and pumped her team up. She was phenomenal.”
The beginning of the first set didn’t indicate the final results as the Lady Falcons got off to a quick 6-1 lead. However, Denton responded with an 8-1 run to gain a 9-7 advantage. The Lady Broncos eventually took a 17-12 lead, which they would narrowly hold on to as they claimed the first set 25-22.
The Lady Falcons (12-29, 3-11) took their only set of the match as a 9-2 run in the second set gave them a 16-9 lead on their way to a 25-18victory.
“I was proud of the way the girls battled tonight,” Lake Dallas head coach Heather Van Noy said. “They were fired up and ready to play. Megan Dando had 19 kills tonight, and our goal for her was nine to put her over 400 for the season. Now she has 410 for the season. It was fun to give them a goal and see all of them fight for one player.”
The crucial third set went to the Lady Broncos as they separated themselves from Lake Dallas at 6-6 with a 6-0 spurt. The Lady Falcons then pushed the score to 16-14, forcing Silva to take a timeout. Denton responded with four straight points, with sophomore Hannah Altman recording two aces to make it 20-14. Wagner finished off the third set with two of her eight kills in the set to give the Lady Broncos a 25-22 win.
“The second match, we kept letting them get runs, and we weren’t getting runs like we normally do,” Silva said. “Maybe we weren’t serving strong or our blocking was pretty weak. We came out and switched up the rotation a little bit in the third set. The serving was more aggressive and our blocking was better. We could handle some of those blocking areas and our offense came alive.”
The beginning of the fourth set saw each team make runs before the score was tied at 11-11. Denton then used a 9-2 run to take a 20-13 lead, which it held on to on its way to a 25-21 victory.
“I think passing was key,” Van Noy said. “Whoever passed better seemed to be able to run their offense a little bit better. We struggled with passing to end the third game and into the fourth game. They have a great shot down the line, and they have some powerful hitters. They are going to give a lot of teams trouble.”
The Lady Broncos will face Saginaw on Tuesday in the bi-district round of the playoffs, with the location to be determined later. With the Lady Broncos making the bi-district round last season, Silva said her team has loftier goals this time around.
“There’s a lot of confidence going in,” Silva said. “We’ve won four in row and now I’m just trying to keep my team focused and ready. We made it to bi-district last year, but we want to make it past bi-district this year.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .