Lady Cats volleyball in first place after first round of district play
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 5, 2005 - An official being ejected from a game would on most occasions be the top story.

But, not even that unheard-of occurrence could take precedence Tuesday night over the intense match-up between the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats and Greenville for the District 12-4A lead.

Holding steady through the ups-and-downs of a five-game match, the Lady Cats won the final two games to take a 20-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12 victory in a very boisterous Wildcat Gym.

After the first round of district play, the Lady Cats are alone on top of the standings with a 5-0 record. They also became just the sixth team in SSHS history to win 20 games as their overall record improved to 20-9. Greenville dropped to 4-1, 17-10.

The Lady Cats were able to feed off a large, vocal home crowd with more than 100 SSHS students standing throughout the match.

"I told the girls, 'This is why you play.' " said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "A battle like this between the best  two teams in the district - we knew it would go five games. It has to, we've been going five in all them.

"I told them they had to stay focused. We knew there was going to be some runs, some adversity, but we had to play through that. The girls kept their composure through it all."

The biggest adversity probably came in Game 5 with the Lady Cats leading, 10-7. On a Greenville tip, Sulphur Springs senior Tara Gibby went totally parallel to the floor and was able to get her hand under the ball to keep the ball alive and Jessica Owens finished it with a spike. But, the floor official questioned whether the dig was clean, and the head referee ordered a replay.

The Lady Lions then won the next two points to pull to within 10-9, but a hard spike by Gibby, a tip from Kayla Morgan and an ace by Laura Ream gave SSHS a 13-9 lead. They finished off the match when Greenville was called for being in the net and then Ream's final serve could not be returned.

Gibby and Hailey Watson both recorded double-doubles, as Gibby led the Lady Cats with 14 kills, seven aces and 14 points, and Watson finished with a team-high 16 points and 18 assists to go with five aces and two kills.  Morgan added 11 kills.

In fact, the Lady Cats had four girls with at least six kills each, as junior Kristen McDonald recorded seven and Owens added six. Brittany Moore contributed four kills and six points.

�The match wasn't without controversy. In addition to the replay in the fifth game, one of the line judges was asked to leave the gym following Game 2 after she made an inappropriate gesture to the SSHS student section, who booed her after a line call.

Rusty Harden, former Greenville boys basketball coach who lives in Sulphur Springs, was at the game as a bystander and agreed to call the remainder of the match.

McCullough said the Lady Cats' mental toughness was a key factor in the win.

"In Game 5, we could have folded. We had the pancake, but they missed the call," he recounted. "The girls came back and refocused and we got the win. They battled great tonight.

"We knew we were playing a team just like us, coming in at 4-0.  There was going to be run and rallies. We have to stay calm through their runs because we're going to get on runs of our own. We're going to get our shots at it and get some points. Being able to maintain that composure throughout the entire game was big for us."

Greenville, led by junior Jackie Jones with 18 kills and 10 points and Blanca Saavedra with 13 kills, came out spiking, then were able to score with tips and dinks. Of their 44 kills, 14 of them were tips.

"We were blocking them at first, so they had to start tipping," said Watson. "We had to be on our toes because they were tipping balls where they were hard to get to. We had to be ready for anything and expect everything."

Greenville got ahead by as many as nine points midway through the first game and held off a late SSHS rally. The second game, though, was key.

Greenville's biggest lead was 18-14 in Game 2, but the Lady Cats broke serve then scored six straight points on Watson's serves. They included consecutive spikes by Owens, McDonald and Gibby to tie the game, then Gibby's spike gave the lady Cats a 21-18 lead. Greenville got to within 23-22, but another Gibby kill and Owens' tip finished off the game.

Game 3 mirrored the first game with Greenville expanding its lead late to go up, 2-1.

In Game 4, the teams were tied at 18-18, but a spike by Owens gave the Lady Cats the lead at 19-18, and Gibby had three kills in a span of four straight service points from senior Marlee Peugh to put the Lady Cats up to stay, 23-19.

Peugh and libero Colbie Cross combined for xx digs on the back row.

"That's two good teams going at it for first place in district," McCullough said. "It was just an awesome game."

The Lady Cats host  Paris to open the second half of district play Friday at 5:45 p.m.

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