On a night that featured the theme “Dig Pink” in honor of breast cancer awareness, the Granbury Lady Pirates volleyball team dug deep for their biggest victory of the season.
Consistently frustrating Aledo hitters with 142 defensive digs, the Lady Pirates came away with a come-from-behind 14-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-23, 15-10 victory at the James Wann Sports Center.
“Every time there was a chance to chase a ball, we weren’t giving up,” said Lady Pirate Aubrey Ezell, who finished with 31 digs.
“We just kept each other up. We knew we could do this tonight,” said Breanna Crain, who led all Lady Pirates with 43 digs.
So often throughout the evening, the ball would come within a fingernail of hitting the floor, but a Lady Pirate – or a Ladycat, as Aledo also played stubborn defense – would be there to keep it alive.
The win left both teams with 7-1 records atop District 7-4A. It also avenged a sweep of the Lady Pirates (31-4 overall) to the Ladycats (29-7) in the district opener in Aledo on Sept. 13.
The Ladycats, the 2012 Class 4A state runners-up, had swept 21 consecutive 7-4A matches before Tuesday. When they won the first game, it was the 64th consecutive game victory going back to last season.
And early in Game 2 it appeared the Ladycats might be on the way to doing so again as they jumped out to a 9-5 lead. However, Granbury scored seven of the next eight points to take a 12-11 lead.
“When we realized we could go toe-to-toe, that was important for us to know,” said Lady Pirate coach Tammy Clark.
The teams fought back and forth for the remainder of the game before Ezell’s kill put Granbury ahead for good, 25-24. It ended on the next point as the Ladycats were called for having a player in the net, and suddenly the match was even at a game apiece.
“They dug in and fought for every single point,” Clark said of the second game. “The girls just would not let the ball hit the floor.”
Crain admitted that winning the second game was a must for the Lady Pirates, given the Ladycats had built something of a mental advantage in the previous matches.
“They would have already won two games tonight, and it would have been tough,” Crain said. “But we just kept building each other up and reminding ourselves we could do it.”
Taylor Deyoung, who had 10 kills, added, “We put aside the jersey name and played just like we would any other opponent.”
After the Ladycats rebounded to again take the lead by winning the third game, the Lady Pirates regrouped and came out quick in Game 4 to take control. The Lady Pirates raced to a 10-3 lead.
“I knew it was going to be a battle, and our girls did a fantastic job of calming themselves down,” said Clark. “They did not let Aledo take momentum even though they (Aledo) won Game 3.
“When we jumped out to that big lead in Game 4, it was like, ‘Okay, this isn’t over by any means.’”
The Ladycats fought back to tie the fourth game at 15, but Granbury responded with a 6-2 run. Deyoung iced the win with a kill.
The fifth game began with Aledo serving and taking a quick 2-0 lead. But Granbury again came back, using its brick wall defense to set up a kill by Hannah Hiler for an 11-7 lead, and after Karis Beasley’s block, the Lady Pirates had a 13-8 advantage.
Deyoung and Beasley ended the night with back-to-back kills after Aledo had closed to within 13-10.
“I’m sure Aledo was like, “What do ya gotta do to hit the ball on the floor?” said Clark.
“If we can beat this team we can beat anybody,” said Ezell, who also had 56 assists to give her 1,038 on the season.
Ezell needs 41 assists to break the single-season record of 1,078 set by Chelsea White in 2009. She already owns the career record with 2,720.
“That’s a good team, and we just beat them.”
CROWD A FACTOR
Tuesday’s match was played before one of the largest ever to see a volleyball contest at the James Wann Sports Center. Granbury fans not only filled their side of the building, but were overflowing onto the Aledo side as well.
And Crain said it was a big part of the Lady Pirates’ victory.
“They helped with our energy, made us stay positive,” she said.
“We love having the parents, grandparents, students and teachers all out here watching us,” said Beasley, who had a team-high 14 kills.
“They’re a part of our family,” said Deyoung.
The Lady Pirates are 14-0 at home this season.
“The girls really do love playing in their gym for their crowd,” said Clark. “And they do feed off it.”
If things go as expected and Granbury and Aledo finish tied for the District 7-4A championship, Clark said she would welcome a third meeting with their rival.
“I can’t think of a better opponent for a playoff warmup match,” she said.
Of course, it would also depend on whether Aledo coach Kathy Goings agrees to a third time around. Then, too, the teams could meet in the playoffs, most likely the Region I final if they get that far.
“That would be pretty fun,” said Clark. “But there’s a lot of volleyball and a lot of good teams to get through to get there.”
Ironically, the Lady Pirates dropped out of the state ranking this week despite having won six straight matches since being ranked 11th. They were previously ranked as high as No. 9.
Aledo also dropped this week, from 14th to 15th, despite entering Tuesday on a nine-match winning streak.
But then, Clark has never let been one to let rankings concern her.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter where they are ranked or you are ranked, you have to beat them to advance,” she said.
Burleson (31-2), which split two matches with the Lady Pirates, is the highest-ranked team in Region I, sitting second. Boswell (30-5) is 12th, and Canyon Randall (26-7) is 20th.
The Lady Pirates were playing last night at Western Hills. A win would tie the school record with their 32nd victory, matching the 2010 squad.
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Granbury defeated Aledo 14-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-23, 15-10
Aces – Amber Strange 1, Aubrey Ezell 1, Karis Beasley 1, Shelby Shade 1, Taylor Deyoung 1, team 5.
Kills – Beasley 14, Strange 11, Deyoung 10, Ezell 9, Hannah Hiler 9.
Blocks – Strange 2, Sydney Carpenter 2, Deyoung 1.5, team 7.5.
Assists – Ezell 56, team 56.
Digs – Breanna Crain 43, Ezell 31, Beasley 21, Deyoung 15, Shade 15, team 142.