PILOT POINT — When Pilot Point lost a closely contested first set Tuesday, it didn’t get discouraged. Instead, the Lady Bearcats settled down and beat Denton 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-18.
In the first set, Mackenzie David’s ace gave Pilot Point a 6-3 advantage. The Lady Broncos (4-3) tied the set at 8 and then went on a 4-2 run to take a 12-10 lead, but the Lady Bearcats (4-4) tied it again at 15.
Denton got a kill from Kody Jones to force Pilot Point into a timeout. Kenzie Dozier’s kill gave Denton a 21-17 lead, but Pilot Point fought back to within 24-22 with three straight points, which forced a Denton timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Lady Broncos ran a well-executed play from Hannah Altman to Jade Akins, who led the Lady Broncos with 11 kills on the night, for a set-ending kill.
In the second set, the Lady Bearcats took an 11-6 lead. The Lady Broncos rallied to go up 17-15, but Pilot Point took six of the final eight points to secure a 25-22 victory.
“Offensively, we are so solid,” Pilot Point coach Becky Phillips said. “We have four, possibly five kids that are hitting over .280 hitting percentage, so we are deep at hitters. We don’t just have two hitters; we have five hitters when we are passing the ball.”
After evening the match, the Lady Bearcats started the third set with a 5-0 run, but Denton countered with four straight points and drew to within 7-6.
“Defense, going into this year, was my main concern,” Phillips said. “We knew we had the offense, but the defense has come alive. It’s almost surreal because some of those kids in the back row have never played defense and they have never been in serve-receive. For them to do what they’re doing, it’s just pure heart, because defense is all heart.”
Pilot Point capitalized on two straight aces by Marissa Morris to take a 21-14 lead, but the Lady Broncos crawled back with three straight aces by Emily Curtis and an error by the Lady Bearcats to inch to within 23-21. However, Denton couldn’t complete the comeback and lost 25-21.
“Our theme is ‘Stop at never,’ and we have three rules that describe that,” Denton coach Danielle Silva said. “One of them is to never stop fighting if we are losing. I saw them come up a little bit, but we just got frustrated with some calls and we got frustrated with ourselves.”
The fourth set was as close as the first three. It wasn’t until the set was tied at 9 that a team made a run. The Lady Broncos built a 17-10 lead and looked to be headed toward a fifth set.
During Denton’s run, Phillips made it clear to her team what type of game it was in and that it should not succumb to the pressure.
“When we lost momentum in the fourth game and I called that timeout, I said, ‘Ya’ll, this is not a playoff game,’” Phillips said. “‘It’s just a game, and remember what our goal was: to get better with every point.’ I told them not to look at the score and let their crowd dictate your intensity level. It kind of got them unflustered.”
With the Lady Bearcats seemingly content to head to a fifth set, they rattled off eight straight points to take a 18-17 lead, behind several key kills from senior outside setter Kirby Smith.
Denton tied it at 18, but Pilot Point finished out the set with seven straight points, including freshman Jordan David’s match-ending kill.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.