RED OAK — There is no longer room for error in the pursuit of a district championship for the Red Oak Lady Hawk volleyball team after falling in five sets to Midlothian at home on Tuesday.
Midlothian, determined to avenge a five-set homecoming loss to Red Oak in the first District 10-5A match of the season, handed the Lady Hawks their first loss since Aug. 17 in five-set fashion, 19-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 25-11.
The Lady Panthers simply outplayed the home team, said an agitated Red Oak head volleyball coach Hope Porter after she spoke with the Lady Hawks in the locker room.
“If I could pinpoint what it was that caused the lull, I would be alright right now, but I don’t know what the disconnect was. We never really got into a rhythm tonight,” Porter said. “Sometimes you just play a team on the other side of the net that just wants it a little more than you do. I think we got outplayed. We just got outplayed. There was more desire on the other side of the court tonight. I have to give Midlothian credit because they wanted to win and it showed.”
“I don’t want to say that my kids didn’t want to win, because I know they did, but they didn’t have the fight in them to make it happen tonight,” Porter added. […] At the end, when it was point-for-point and tit-for-tat, their big kids stepped up, and ours didn’t. We just couldn’t get anything to fall our way tonight.”
The loss was the first for (29-4, 7-1) Red Oak in District 10-5A and snapped a 21-game winning streak that began after a two-set loss to Frisco Wakeland in tournament play on Aug. 17.
Red Oak still controls its own path to a district championship, though, as the Lady Hawks are now tied with (28-9, 7-1) Mansfield Lake Ridge atop the 10-5A standings. Lake Ridge faces Waxahachie on Friday, and the Lady Indians will undoubtedly benefit from the return of last season’s district MVP Audrey Nalls. The junior TCU-commit made her much-anticipated return to the court Tuesday with 15 kills against Lancaster.
With the win, (23-11, 6-2) Midlothian moved into sole possession of the No. 3 spot in the district, while (22-13, 5-3) Waxahachie now sits alone in the fourth playoff spot.
The play of Kylie Bryan, especially moving from the third set into the fourth, was one of the brightest spots on the court for the Lady Hawks, Porter said.
“She was very consistent passing serves and was very vocal when no one else was talking,” Porter explained. “She went above and beyond tonight.”
Bryan finished with 19 digs and no errors and broke 13 serves with just three errors.
Senior outside hitter Kennedy Wiley also stepped up for the Lady Hawks, sending home a game-high 24 kills (.415 hitting percentage) and seven blocks.
Katie Hess added 12 kills and Hailey Hunt finished with 10. Hess also had a team-high 22 digs, while Emily North had 19 to go with her team-high 43 assists.
Midlothian was the first of four teams Red Oak will face during the second half of district play that the Lady Hawks have already beaten twice this season — joining Waxahachie, Mansfield Legacy, and Mansfield Lake Ridge.
For Porter, the familiarity with the opposition is both a blessing and a curse that will test her team's mental fortitude.
“I don’t care how good of a team you are, every time you play someone, it is harder to beat them. To beat a team three times in one year is a tough deal," Porter said. "We played all of them early in the season and won, so it is going to be a mental game for us. The kids will have to come out focused and ready to play. We preach it, and it’s true – you can’t take anyone in this district lightly. It’ll be interesting to see how we respond.”
THE FIVE-SET PAYBACK
After each team battled to split the opening two sets, Red Oak built a four-point lead midway through set number three and maintained it into a Midlothian timeout, leading 16-12.
The lead grew to six after a couple of Lady Panther errors before Aliyah Muhammad buried a kill down the right inline. Emily North responded with a kill in the same fashion to push Red Oak ahead 21-15.
Out of a Red Oak timeout, the Lady Hawks scored three of the next four points — highlighted by two Kennedy Wiley kills — for the third-set win, 25-20.
The fourth set began as the third ended — with a Wiley kill off of a North set. Midlothian again rallied with kills from freshman Aryn Walton and Sydney Little to tie the set at four-all.
A missile from Little a few serves later gave the Lady Panthers their first lead of the fourth set, 6-5. The younger Walton followed a Lady Hawk error with her second kill of the set for an 8-5 Midlothian lead.
The lead eventually ballooned to 16-6 before Red Oak found an answer by way of a Keyeria Tyeskie kill. It was the first match of the season for Tyeksie, who was recovering from an offseason knee injury.
With Midlothian at set point, Muhammad fired home the equalizer to send the match into a fifth and deciding set.
Midlothian found the floor first in the fifth set, but a Wiley kill followed by Lady Panther error put Red Oak up 2-1. Midlothian retook the advantage on the ninth point of the match and then used back-to-back Red Oak errors to build the largest lead for either team through the first 11 points, 7-4.
The lead then grew to four before Red Oak ran off four straight points to pull within one after the Midlothian side out, 9-8.
Three unforced Red Oak errors later resulted in a Porter timeout with Midlothian leading 12-9 in the race to 15.
The momentum was firmly in favor of the Lady Panthers, though. Midlothian took set five and clinched the crucial district win, 15-11.
The Lady Hawks return to the floor Friday on the road against (14-20, 2-5) Mansfield Legacy. Red Oak defeated the Lady Broncos in three st (17-25, 25-19, 25-11) on Aug. 19 and again in a sweep (25-8, 25-15, 25-9) during district play.
First volley is at 5:30 p.m.