FORT WORTH — No one on Guyer’s team had ever played in a playoff match prior to Tuesday night.
But for much of the Lady Wildcats’ Class 4A Region I bi-district match against Saginaw Boswell, the team played like a group of playoff veterans.
Senior Sylvia Nwiba racked up 16 kills and 4 1/2 blocks, and junior Sydney Reyes had 11 kills and five blocks to lead Guyer to a four-set victory over the Lady Pioneers (22-18), winning 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23 to advance to the area round of the playoffs, where Guyer will meet Burleson at 7 p.m. Friday at Saginaw Chisolm Trail High School.
“This is exciting,” Guyer head coach Addie Mack said. “It’s something that you think about and you just don’t know if it’s really going to happen.
“I’m really excited the girls performed, and we as a team got to reach this goal together. None of these girls have actually played in a playoff match, and for them to get that and accomplish that goal is a great feeling. I’m proud of them. I’m excited for our next match.”
Guyer (26-12), the second seed out of District 5-4A, is making its first postseason appearance since 2009 after a two-year hiatus while the team was in Class 5A. Tuesday marked the first playoff win for Mack as a head coach.
The Lady Wildcats cruised to a first-set win as it appeared they might be in line for a relatively easy night, but from that point they found themselves in a battle with the third-place team from District 6-4A.
Guyer led by as many as four points early in the second set before the Lady Pioneers pulled away thanks to some Guyer errors and some fiery play.
That play continued into the third set, when Boswell took a 9-3 lead and appeared to have the Lady Wildcats on the ropes before Mack called a timeout.
Before the Lady Pioneers could blink an eye, Guyer had pulled even at 10 behind some fiery play of its own from Nwiba and Reyes.
“When we need her, she finds a way to put the ball in play and give us some fire and some energy,” Mack said of Nwiba, a front-row reserve who is one of her few seniors. “She has that ‘go-get-’em’ mentality that gets the team into it when she does something positive. She was a really good factor for us tonight making positive plays and incredible kills when it mattered.”
In that pivotal third set, Nwiba tallied five kills while Reyes had four kills and a block.
“Even though we are a rollercoaster team this year, for them to have that ‘umph’ and courage and will in them to say ‘let’s do this’ and take care of it is something that can’t be said for some teams,” Mack said. “Even though we have ups and downs, they always know they have something to work on and something to get better at.”
Reyes, a junior middle blocker, had much of her success thanks to her active night in the middle, which exploited one of Boswell’s weaknesses, Mack said.
“We talked about moving our middle around because Boswell has a harder time with that and picking up those middle attacks,” Mack said. “Reyes knew her job was to take care of the ball and she did exactly that.”
Guyer got 42 assists and 12 digs from junior setter Madison Walford, while Jasmine Montemayor and Emily Gorr each added 11 digs. Freshman Tabitha Spray had six kills and Mikayla Yates added six kills and four blocks.
Mack said she was happy with the way her team fought back from the early hole in the third set and persevered to win nail-biters in the third and fourth sets.
“It just goes back to practice and making routine plays,” Mack said. “We know what was successful in [the first set] and we went back to that. I’m proud of the fact they realized they had to do those small things right and execute what they knew how to execute.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .