RED OAK — For two sets, the Lady Hawks were asleep on their feet Friday evening inside the gymnasium on the campus of Red Oak High School. But even just going through the motions without emotion, head coach Hope Porter needed just four words while down 18-11 in the second set to help change the tide.
“Get excited about something,” demanded Porter from near the scorer's table as her team was on its way to dropping the second set, 22-25, after falling in the opener 25-27.
The Lady Hawks responded with a three-set showcase for the upset of 10-5A’s second place Midlothian Lady Panthers, 25-27, 22-25, 25-16, 25-10, and 15-12.
“We got over the hump. We needed a win like this and I hope it helps us build some confidence so that we can continue to go forward from here and not start backsliding,” Porter said. “I told them after the second set, that the easiest way to build momentum is to not let balls fall. It doesn't matter if you get it up or not it, but if you were going all out and trying to get it up, that is going to start good things and going to start making things happen. And it did.
“Alyssa Pevehouse decided that she was going to run through some balls and not watch the balls fall, and we got a couple of touches almost off of the back wall and were able to pass them over. That is the kind of thing that you have to have, but when you sit and watch balls fall and nobody goes for them it can take a team's energy very fast.”
Pevehouse, a senior captain and libero, finished the match with 12 digs, second on the team to the 15 posted by Katie Hess. For Hess, the five-set win was one of her better statistical performances all season.
“We needed her to step up, and she did,” said Porter of Hess who was often the most vocal Lady Hawk on the court.
Hess finished the match with a team-leading 19 kills. The 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter also added two aces and three blocks.
During the fourth set, back-to-back Hess kills forced a Midlothian timeout in the midst of a 4-0 Red Oak run. She added a third three serves later, and Serena Patterson followed suit with one of her team-high 19 kills for a 17-8 Lady Hawk advantage.
The tandem continued their exceptional aerial assault around a Samantha Rodgers kill to run the Red Oak lead to double digits for the first time on the evening.
“I just told them it comes down to who wants it more it takes three sets to win and they have got two,” said Porter of the inspiration she provided that fueled the 17-5 run to even the match at two sets, each.
“So you either have to want it more than them or you are just going to give it in. It really just comes down to heart. It just comes down to who wants it more. And they got out there and got a little fire and things started falling our way. When things are falling your way, it's easy to get excited and get things rolling in the right direction.”
Freshman Hailey Hunt also benefitted from the stellar play of setters Kayla Brock and Emily North, as she finished with seven kills.
Brock eclipsed the 30-assist plateau for the fourth time this season and first since back-to-back 32 assist matches on Sept. 6 and 9 against Lewisville and Mansfield Legacy. North's 16 assists were also her most since the same two-game stretch where she accounted for 22 and 20 assists, respectively.
The win was the most significant thus far into the season for the Lady Hawks, as it pulls Porter and company within a single game of second place in 10-5A. Both Midlothian and Mansfield Lake Ridge are 5-2 in district play, while Red Oak and Mansfield Legacy are tied for the fourth-and-final playoff spot at 4-3.
The Lady Hawks begin the second half of district Tuesday on the road against Mansfield Legacy with a chance for a second-straight upset.
“Hopefully we can carry this momentum right on into Tuesday. We have been waiting, really I have been waiting, and on that big win,” Porter said. “I believe if we can just get a big win that the sky is the limit for these girls. They needed that as a confidence builder. They needed that as a momentum builder. We needed that and to believe that we are capable of winning those kinds of games.
“We are still in the hunt.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith