RED OAK — For a Lady Hawk team vying for a district championship, Tuesday's win over Mansfield Timberview was not near as dominant or clean a match as one might expect at this point in the season. It will instead serve as a wake-up call, their head coach said.
Red Oak defeated the Lady Wolves in four sets (25-10, 22-25, 25-16, 25-12) to improve to 33-4 on the season and 11-1 in District 10-5A. With two matches to go and holding the tiebreaker over second-place Mansfield Lake Ridge, the Lady Hawks need to win just one of their next two matches to clinch an outright district championship.
"Being in this position is where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season and where we have strived to be," said Red Oak head volleyball coach Hope Porter after the match. "If there is a downside to everything, it is that we are not playing our best ball right now. That is not where we want to be going into the playoffs. Somehow we have got to figure out what is going on, make some tweaks, make some changes and get things back on track so that we can play solid volleyball. Right now we are just getting by and we need to clean that up."
After splitting the first two sets, Red Oak jumped out to a three-point lead in the third game, 9-6, but allowed Timberview to close the gap three serves later.
The set would not stay tied — or close — for long.
Paced by three Emily North kills and a couple Katelyn Malone and Kendra Mcruffin blocks, the Lady Hawks built a 20-14 lead and forced a Timberview timeout. Another Malone block out of the timeout pushed the lead to 21-14.
A few serves later, Kylie Bryan recorded an ace and Malone sent home one of her four kills on the evening for the 25-16 third-set win and 2-1 Red Oak lead in the match.
Behind big kills from Hailey Hunt and Katie Hess, as well as blocks by Mcruffin and Kennedy Wiley, Red Oak started the fourth set on an 11-2 run.
The lead ballooned to 10 points, 17-7, when Hunt cut behind North for a kill from the left side.
A Mcruffin kill later pushed the Lady Hawks to match point, and a Lady Wolves error on the next serve gave Red Oak the fourth set win, 25-12.
"Kendra got her chance, stepped up and did what she needed to do to help us win," said Porter of the senior who finished with eight kills on 14 swings and added a team-high five blocks.
Hess led the team with 11 kills, while Wiley added 10, North had seven and Hunt recorded six.
As a team, the Lady Hawks recorded 11 blocks, which is something Porter hopes to see more of and especially from her middle blockers.
"I have been preaching to the girls about establishing the middle," Porter said. "We have to establish the middle. I thought they were attempting to do that, and that might have led to some of our struggles, but we have to do better with our middles."
Kylie Bryan posted a team-high 22 digs, while North and Lili Ratliff added 14 and 13 digs, each.
North led the way with 28 assists and Emily Smith finished with 14.
Red Oak will look to clinch the District 10-5A championship at home Friday, Oct. 20 against Mansfield Summit. The first serve is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The Lady Hawks conclude the regular season Tuesday, Aug. 24 on the road against Waxahachie.
The Lady Indians clinched the fourth and final playoff spot Tuesday by defeating Mansfield Summit in four sets, joining Red Oak, Mansfield Lake Ridge and Midlothian.