ARGYLE — Ali Eager knew she had to do something to lift her team out of its late-match funk against Plano John Paul II on Tuesday, and in the clutch she didn’t disappoint.
The Liberty Christian junior posted 24 kills, including eight in the decisive fifth set, to lead the Lady Warriors (20-11, 5-6 district) to a 26-24, 25-17, 16-25, 19-25, 20-18 win in a crucial TAPPS Class 5A District I match. The teams came in with identical district records.
“All I was thinking was that we beat them already and I wasn’t about to let this one get away from us,” Eager said. “We just had to find a way to get our energy back, and we did.”
With her team trailing by four midway through the fifth set, Eager ripped off five kills as part of a 7-2 run that gave the Lady Warriors an 11-10 lead. The lead changed hands five times before Paige Jeary and Hanna Elsey combined for two points for another 17-16 Lady Warrior lead. Liberty Christian scored four of the next six points for the win.
Liberty’s Maddie Grubbs finished with 12 kills and five aces, while Olivia Asprey added eight kills. Asprey and Jeary tied for the team lead with 28 assists apiece. Shelby Westbrook had 16 digs.
Madison Fitzsimmons led John Paul II with 15 kills and seven blocks. Jennifer Young added 14 kills.
After winning sets three and four, the Lady Cardinals (4-7) jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fifth and had a chance for match point three times, only to be thwarted.
“John Paul is a fantastic team, well-coached and they’re a fighting group over there,” Liberty Christian coach Justin Else said. “They were giving it to us in games three and four. That was a nail-biter right there.”
That’s not the way the night started. Liberty Christian eked out a tight win in the opening set and seemed to have all the momentum when it jumped out on a 12-4 run midway through the second set. That surge gave the Lady Warriors an 11-point edge they never relinquished.
Heading into the third set up 2-0, Eager already had racked up 13 kills.
Eager was fairly quiet over the next two sets, though, and it showed as the Lady Cardinals went on an 11-1 run in the third to erase a three-point deficit. They added another 10-5 run to avoid a sweep.
In the fourth, John Paul II broke open a 15-all tie with a 7-2 run and eventually won the set by six. But Eager and company rebounded when it mattered most, Else said.
“Ali is a fantastic player and I really do feel she gave us a spark, which fed to the crowd and eventually fed to this team,” Else said. “It’s in their hands now. Tonight we took care of business.”