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Volleyball: Gunter solves Lady Bearcats to advance

Profile image for By Jason Della Rosa / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
By Jason Della Rosa / For the Denton Record-Chronicle

AUBREY — Pilot Point was in control of District 12-2A matches all season, including a pair of victories over third-place Gunter. The Lady Bearcats were unable to take control in a playoff match against their district rival as Gunter defeated Pilot Point 25-23, 25-23, 25-21 on Tuesday night in a Class 2A Region II quarterfinal match.

“I didn’t think we were ever in the driver’s seat,” Pilot Point head coach Becky Phillips said. “Gunter never really let us. They shut us down offensively.”

Gunter (25-15) will face either Eustace or Commerce in a regional semifinal at Rockwall-Heath at 6 p.m. Friday.

It is the first trip to the regional tournament for the Lady Tigers. The Lady Bearcats (31-8) were trying to get back to the fourth round for the first time in seven years, when they were in Class 3A.

A.J. Campbell had 13 kills, eight digs and three blocks to lead Pilot Point. Sierra Brooks added seven kills and 14 digs, Ashtyn Richey and Kirby Smith each put down six kills and Feliciana Reed handed out 24 assists.

Pilot Point swept the first regular-season showdown before Gunter forced the rematch to go five sets.

“I knew in the back of my mind they had taken us to five and thought they could play with us,” Phillips said. “You hope you don’t hand over the momentum in a match. It felt like it was a struggle the whole match.”

Pilot Point opened by winning five of the first six points, with Campbell and Reed doing damage at the net. The Lady Bearcats weathered a short spurt by Gunter and held a 14-7 advantage.

The Lady Tigers then went on a 6-1 run to make the deficit more manageable and eventually pulled even at 18. From there neither side forged a two-point lead. After the score was tied at 21, Pilot Point scored the next two points and looked to be on the verge of claiming set 1.

But Pilot Point’s Marissa Morris, who had just put down an ace, sent the ensuing serve long to open the door for Gunter, which reeled off the next three points to win the set.

“All year we’d been able to take back momentum and never lose it,” Phillips said. “We weren’t able to that. You’ve got to figure out a way.”

Set 2 was almost a carbon copy, except it was the Lady Tigers building the early lead. Gunter was up 14-8 before Pilot Point took the next four points. The Lady Bearcats pulled even at 18 and took the lead on the next point, but Gunter tied it up and went ahead by three. Campbell led Pilot Point’s charge to get the score tied at 23 before Casey Hicks’ kill gave the edge back to Gunter, which finished things off a point later.

Gunter scored five of the first six points and was on the verge of a sweep after the Lady Tigers used a 6-0 run, on the strength of three kills by Hicks, to open a 22-15 advantage. Pilot Point countered by taking five of the next six points, including a kill by Richey and an ace from Reed.

The three-point gap was as close as the Lady Bearcats could get.