Lady Cats improve to 3-0 in district play with win over North Lamar
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 1, 2005 - After a three-game road swing to open up district action, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats received a warm welcome on their return to Wildcat Gymnasium Friday. And boy, did they respond to it.

Feeding off a raucous, vocal crowd, the Lady Cats disposed of North Lamar in three games, 25-17, 25-22, 26-24, to remain tied atop the District 12-4A standings with Greenville. SSHS (4-0 in district, 19-9 overall) and Greenville (4-0, 17-9) face off Tuesday in Wildcat Gymnasium in a district showdown.

For the Lady Cats, who had been taken to five games in every district match leading up to North Lamar, Friday's match was a step up in their level of play.

"That level is what those girls are capable of playing at all the time," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "They started in Game 1 and never let up. Tonight, they never lost their composure, they never got down. They played level the whole time, and I'm so proud of them I can hardly speak.

"They played awesome tonight."

North Lamar, last year's district champion, was riding a 12-game district winning streak before Greenville beat the Pantherettes (2-2, 15-13) on Tuesday. Now, they have a two-game losing streak.

Junior middle blocker Kayla Morgan had a big game for the Lady Cats, leading the team in points (16) and aces (seven), and getting eight kills and two blocks. Senior outside hitter Tara Gibby added two blocks and eight kills, including spikes on the final two points of Game 3 after North Lamar had rallied from a 12-3 deficit to tie the game at 24-24.

Junior outside hitter Kristen McDonald was also powerful with a team-high nine kills.

Each of the three games took on its own tone. In Game 1, the Lady Cats took an early lead and lengthened it out to 18-11 behind six service points from Morgan. After North Lamar cut the deficit to four points at 18-14, McDonald knocked down a kill off an assist from Hailey Watson, and Gibby and junior Brittany Moore each had kills to seal the game.

In Game 2, it was North Lamar who led most of the way. Sulphur Springs took a 2-1 lead, but didn't have the advantage again until a spike by Watson off a Laura Ream set gave them a 22-21 lead. Watson finished with four kills, 10 assists and nine points, while Ream had a team-high 15 assists.

Once the Lady Cats had the Game 2 lead, they finished it off with a tip from Gibby, a powerful spike by McDonald and another Gibby kill.

But, it was Game 3 that showed the Lady Cats' poise.

They went up 12-3 behind four points from Moore and six from Morgan. But, North Lamar then started cutting into the lead until they took an 18-17 advantage. 

Sulphur Springs broke serve on a Morgan kill and both teams worked the score to a 24-24 tie. Gibby's kill put the score at match point, then a nice dig by Amanda McGowin set up Gibby for a game-winning tip near the end line.

"Coach McCullough has been talking about staying at this equilibrium," Morgan said. "We get where we get on these highs when we score, then we drop down. But, tonight, even when we were down and fighting, making bad plays and shanking them, everyone stayed together and stayed even."

The win gave the Lady Cats a two-game lead over third place in district with six games to go. It was also the first in a lengthy five-game home stand.

"Tonight, they never let down and they never lost focus," McCullough said. "I don't know if it was because it was North Lamar or it was the first home district game, or a Friday night when there was no football game. We had a great crowd tonight - they were loud and vocal. 

"I want to thank everybody who was here tonight for supporting the girls and being loud. They really don't understand what that means to the team. It gives them energy, and tonight it showed."

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