In their second District 5-5A match of the season, the Ryan Lady Raiders looked like a team that’s been making progress all year.
Considering the degree of difficulty Ryan’s district poses, that progress only manifested a narrower margin of defeat.
The Lady Raiders grew stronger as the match continued, but they were still swept by the Hebron Hawks 25-16, 25-10, 25-22 on Tuesday night.
Ryan’s offense struggled to get past Hebron’s tall front line. Senior outside hitter Hailey Foster paced the Lady Raiders with six kills, while junior middle blocker Susanna Strange had four. Senior libero Domino Birze had seven digs.
Ryan looked like it was on the verge of winning its first set in district play, leading for most of third. The Lady Raiders held a 16-15 lead before the Hawks soared back in front and sealed their second consecutive district win.
Ryan head coach Cindy Williams said despite the straight-set loss, her team looks like it’s beginning to hang with the opposition.
“I think they’re starting to make up their mind now, that if we put some little pieces together, some pieces of the puzzle together, we can start competing,” Williams said.
It may sound like a novice concept, but in one of the state’s toughest districts, competing isn’t the easiest task.
Ryan (6-21, 0-2 district) mustered no more than 12 points in its district-opening loss to Flower Mound Marcus on Friday. Marcus has advanced to the regional finals the past three seasons.
In the second set, the Lady Raiders seemed overmatched by a shorthanded Hebron squad. After Ryan took a 6-5 lead on a Hebron serve that went out of bounds, the Hawks went on a 20-4 run to close out the set.
Hebron (18-11, 2-0) was without two of its key players — junior libero Banner Rodgers and freshman hitter Kendall Patterson.
Hebron head coach Karin Keeney said it was the first time her team had played without Rodgers all season, leaving the libero position on the back line void.
Keeney had originally thought senior outside hitter Micaela Spann was going to miss the match as well. Spann, who has orally committed to Oklahoma, had suffered neck problems the previous two days. Spann came off the bench and led the Hawks with 16 kills.
“She looked really good in warm-ups, so that’s what gave me the opportunity to play her tonight,” Keeney said. “Otherwise, I would have sat her. She looked pretty strong, and she’s done what she needed to do.”
Spann and the rest of the Hawks’ offense gave Ryan fits throughout the night.
Beside the scorers’ table, Hebron placed a big, colorful dry-erase board listing all the team goals and individual goals. Atop the list of team goals was written, “Play at our level,” something the Hawks excelled at against Ryan.
“If anything, just slow it down,” Williams said. “And with a quick team like that, you have to be quick, because they’re going to run you. If they get anything quick, they’re going to try to put it down.”
The slow tempo the Lady Raiders prefer had put them in prime position to win their first set, keeping the thoughts of possibly winning their first match somewhat alive.
But Hebron showed it can be the team that dominated Coppell last week, the team laden with eight seniors and ready to return to a deep playoff run.
“I thought we were going to take it, so it was a little disappointing,” Birze said. “But it’s a good sign that we’re getting better.
“We feel like we keep getting better and better. We just don’t have that final thing to make us finally take a victory.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .