Front row attack leads Lady Cats to victory
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 29, 2004 - The Sulphur Springs Lady Cats used a balanced front-row attack to sweep Mount Pleasant in three games Tuesday night and remain tied for second place in District 12-4A.

Four girls had at least five kills each for Sulphur Springs, and they combined for 10 blocks in a 25-14, 25-20, 25-16 win.

The Lady Cats are now 10-10 on the season, 2-1 in district play. They are one game behind North Lamar and tied with Texas High for second place after NL beat Greenville and Texas High edged Paris in five games on Tuesday.

To beat Mount Pleasant, the Lady Cats focused on shutting down their big hitter, Jasmine King, as much as possible. With junior Tara Gibby knocking down four blocks and sophomore Kayla Morgan getting three, they were able to upset the rhythm of King, who still managed 11 kills and two blocks.

"She's their main hitter, and she can really get up and hit the ball hard," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "The front row really did a good job of getting their hands up and getting some blocks.

"Kayla Morgan had an excellent night. I think she got in Mount Pleasant's head a little bit with two straight blocks. Then, they tried to hit the ball harder and hit some into the wall. But, an athlete like that is going to get some kills. In getting in her head, it kind of altered what she was doing, and that was to our benefit."

No one else for Mount Pleasant (14-6, 1-2) had more than two kills.

The Lady Cats, meanwhile, used a balanced attack as senior Stephanie Kethley led the team with seven kills, while Morgan had six, and Gibby and senior Christina Patchen knocked down five each.

The Lady Cats swept through the first two games, trailing just once (9-10 in game two). In fact, the only other time Mount Pleasant had a lead was at 0-2 in game three, but the Lady Cats scored five straight points on serves by Casey Carper to take the lead for good.

Patchen, who had a team-high 22 digs, said the team played well, though they will have to play even better during Friday's match-up with district-leading North Lamar.

"There are still some weaknesses we had, but as long as we shut down their biggest hitter, we'll be just fine. I thought we played pretty good," she said. "We had some outstanding blocks by Tara Gibby and Kayla. As long as we get it done on the front row, we don't have to sacrifice as much on the back row."

Every time Mount Pleasant would get close, the Lady Cats' front row would seem to come up with a key kill or block. In game one, Mount Pleasant pulled to within a point three different times, but kills by Patchen, Morgan and Kethley broke serve. Carper and Watson then combined for 11 out of 14 points to put the game away.

Watson ended the game with a team-high 11 service points, and Carper was effective in attacking the MP defense.

"She did a great job of serving to some open spaces. They left a hole in the middle right behind the net, and she hit that twice," McCullough explained. "That made them adjust and move up, and then we were able to hit it a little bit deeper. What that does, it keeps the ball away from their setter and they can't set it to their big hitter as easily."

In game two, Mount Pleasant tied the score at 10-10, but the Lady Cats got three kills on the next four points by NeNe Hynson, Kristen McDonald and Watson to pull ahead behind the serving of Marlee Peugh. Then, Betsy Blount served four straight points to put the game out of reach.

Blount and Watson both ended the game with 10 assists apiece.

Then, in game three, it was Morgan who took over at the net. She had four of her kills and two outstanding blocks against King to propel the Lady Cats to the win after a disappointing five-game loss to Texas High on Friday.

"We just tried to remember that losing last week, we couldn't be 10-0, but we can still win district, and we're really focusing on that right now," said Gibby. "We're really wanting to get this game because it's the first step toward that."

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