Coming into today’s District 4-5A home volleyball match against Wichita Falls Rider, the Aledo Ladycats were in an enviable position needing to win just one of their final two District 4-5A matches to clinch an undisputed district title.
They decided not to wait.
Holding serve on their home court, the Ladycats fought tooth-and-nail with a scrappy Rider team that made the hosts earn every point as Aledo prevailed, 25-20, 25-22, 26-24 Tuesday night at the Aledo High School gym to win the district championship outright for the first time in third-year head coach Claire Gay’s tenure at Aledo.
The win elevates the Ladycats’ district record to a sparkling 7-0, while Rider falls to 2-4. The Ladycats will conclude district play Friday at Abilene Cooper.
“It feels good to win the district championship at home,” Gay said. “However, we still have not met our district goal. Our goal is to go undefeated in district play, and we still have one important game left on Friday. But I am proud of this team, and I do emphasize team.
“These girls play for and support each other, they get along very well, and that is a characteristic of a championship team. Now it is time to go back to work and hit our goal before getting ready for the playoffs.”
Senior hitter Daleigh Ellison led the Ladycats at the net with a match-high 13 kills, with junior hitter Lilly Taylor adding eight. Junior middle Audrey Pearce recorded a match-high five blocks, with sophomore setter Mattie Gantt adding three blocks to go with a match-high 33 assists.
Defensively, senior libero Riley Pickett registered 15 digs, with senior hitter Alex Grooms adding 11 and Ellison 10. Grooms also fired a match-high four aces.
Gantt got the ball rolling in the opening game, serving two aces to help Aledo to a quick 3-0 lead. The Ladycats stretched the lead to 14-7 after a kill by junior middle Alyssa Gribble, and later a kill in the middle by Gantt gave the Ladycats a 23-17 lead.
A kill from Gribble extended the lead to 24-19, and two rallies later, Rider committed a service error as Aledo took the opening game.
In game two, Rider jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but after Aledo went on a 13-4 run the Ladycats led 15-8. A return error followed by a service error later in the set increased the AHS advantage to 24-18 before Rider came back with four unanswered points to cut the Aledo lead to 24-22.
But on the next rally, Rider sent a return wide as the Ladycats took a 2-0 lead in games.
Game three was a back-and-forth affair that saw the score tied seven times in the first 22 rallies as Rider took a 13-9 lead. But Aledo, sparked by a pair of aces by Grooms and a kill and a block by Pearce, went on a 5-0 run to take a 14-13 lead and later extended the advantage to 20-16.
Rider, however, slowly worked its way back into the game and tied the set, 24-24.
With momentum on the visitors’ side, Taylor crossed up the Lady Raiders at the net as she tipped a ball above the outstretched arms of the over-aggressive Rider blockers as the ball hit the floor for a kill to give the Ladycats a 25-24 lead.
On the ensuing rally, Rider was called for a double-hit violation as the jubilant Ladycats stormed the floor in celebration of the District 4-5A championship.
The Ladycats won both sub-varsity matches. The Ladycats junior varsity outlasted Rider, 25-21, 25-15, while the freshman ladies won in three sets, 25-12, 18-25, 26-24.
For the complete story see the Oct. 25 issue of The Community News.