MIDLOTHIAN — What the fifth set lacked in excitement on the volleyball court Friday evening in Midlothian, more than made up for it in raw emotion.
After dropping games two and three, rather soundly, to their hosts, the (23-3) Red Oak Lady Hawks found their mojo in time to pull off the five-set win in their first District 10-5A match of the season, 26-24, 14-25, 18-25, 25-17, 15-8.
The win marked the 15th consecutive for Red Oak head volleyball coach Hope Porter and her Lady Hawks. One season ago, the Lady Hawks began the district slate with losses in the first two 10-5A matches and two of the first three.
“I am glad and pleased that we did get the victory tonight and I feel like it really puts us in a better spot than last year,” Porter said. “We didn’t want to end up 0-1 or 0-2. I hope that we can build off of this victory and not put ourselves in a situation like last year where it was do-or-die. I would like for us to kind of control our own destiny.”
Midlothian jumped out to a 5-0 lead in set three with the match tied at one until a Serna Patterson kill put the Lady Hawks on the board. A few serves later a huge Hailey Hunt block had the Lady Hawks within two, 7-5.
Midlothian countered with a quick 3-0 run capped by a Tara Groden ace for a 10-5 lead. The Lady Panther run continued, building to a 13-6 advantage.
Midlothian and Red Oak traded blows over the next several serves, and the Lady Panthers held the same seven-point lead, 20-13. A long rally highlighted by diving bodies on both sides ended with Kelby Buchanan finding a soft spot down the left side of the Red Oak defense for a 22-16 Midlothian lead and firm control of the momentum.
Back to back Sydney Little kills sealed the swing set for the Lady Panthers 25-18.
Red Oak tallied the first two points in the fourth set, but Midlothian remained composed and soon flipped the lead in its favor, 8-6. Three consecutive Lady Hawk points, including an Emily North ace followed by a Red Oak error, tied the game at 9. Kamryn Owen then rifled home an ace off of Kylie Bryan to put Midlothian back on top, 10-9.
Out of a Red Oak timeout, the Lady Hawks reeled off five consecutive points for a 14-11 lead capped by Samantha Rodgers being called for crossing midcourt. The run ended on the ensuing serve with a Lady Hawk hitting error.
Red Oak, however, was not finished streaking. Behind a couple of blocks by Hunt, two Katie Hess kills and kill from Kennedy Wiley, Red Oak was the first to 20 and held a 23-13 lead sooner after.
“I thought Hailey Hunt was a game changer in the fourth set,” Porter said. “At the end of the fourth set, she had some big blocks and did some things to get us rolling.
“[…] We came out and started playing like a team and weren’t dependent on any one player. They all started doing their job and things started falling into place.”
A service error and North roll to the Midlothian middle gave Red Oak the 25-17 win in the fourth set.
“I challenged them at the beginning of the fourth set and said someone has to step up and take charge. We were not playing well. I challenged someone to step back, take a deep breath and take charge and make something happen,” Porter said. “I thought (Katie Hess) did that and I thought that definitely carried us in the fifth set.”
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, Hess went to the floor for a back-row dig, Bryan followed by sliding on her knee pads to the front for a second dig, and Wiley sent a kill off of a Midlothian block for a 3-0 Red Oak advantage.
The lead ballooned to 9-1 with the Lady Hawks seemingly placing shots anywhere they pleased.
Midlothian had a little fight left, however. After piecing together a mini run, Hunt fired home a kill for a 13-7 lead. North dumped a point over to push to match point and Wiley sent home the match winner.
Red Oak returns to the court Tuesday, Sept. 12 against Mansfield Legacy. The first serve is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Red Oak High School gymnasium.