|Sulphur Springs wins in five games over Paris for first district win|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 21, 2005 - PARIS - In their district-opening match Tuesday, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats won their first game in a cake walk. But, it took five games before they got to the icing.
Living up to coach John McCullough's prediction that the district competition would be more balanced this season, the Lady Cats had to persevere over Paris before finally winning by scores of 25-12, 17-25, 25-21, 18-25, 15-13.
Last year, Paris won just one match in District 12-4A, but it's likely they won't struggle so mightily this season.
"The first game, we came up and beat them pretty easily, and I thought, 'Our good team's here and we're going to win this in three,' " McCullough said. "But, you've got to give Paris credit - they're a much improved team over last year."
The Lady Cats will travel to Texarkana on Friday to take on Texas High, who was upset by Greenville in four games last night.
In the final game, Paris took an 8-5 lead, but the Lady Cats started chipping away, getting service back on Jessica Owens' tip and then winning three straight points, including junior Kayla Morgan's spike following a long volley.
The score went back and forth - with middle blocker Angela Robinson hammering a kill for Paris, and Morgan blocking a spike for an SSHS point - until the score was tied 12-12.
Paris' Ashley Zachary then served the ball long, and Sulphur Springs senior Tara Gibby hammered one of her team-high 12 kills to put the Lady Cats up, 14-12. But, an SSHS spike on the next volley went too deep, giving Paris back the serve. It didn't last long.
Jennifer Gerber's serve was handled by Gibby, who passed it senior Hailey Watson for a set, and then Gibby slammed a kill off a Paris player to end the game and the match.
"Tara got the serve and gave a perfect pass to Hailey," McCullough explained. "It was a great give-and-go. It was back-and-forth the whole time, but it was a great job finishing."
Gibby ended the game with six points and a block to go with her 12 kills. Morgan was also strong defensively at the net with nine blocks. She also had six kills and 11 service points. Watson led the game in assists with 21 and added four kills.
After the first game, it didn't appear the match would go five games. The Lady Cats started strong behind the serving of junior Brittany Moore, whose seven points put SSHS up, 9-3. Getting kills from five different players - Morgan, Watson, Gibby, Laura Ream and Kristen McDonald - the Lady Cats won easily, 25-12.
But, they didn't lead again until the score was 21-20 in Game 3.
Paris' Robinson, whose leaping ability put her above the SSHS blocks, caught fire in Game 2. While she hit several spikes long, she also finished with a game-high 15 kills.
After losing big in Game 2, the Lady Cats found themselves down, 12-15, midway through Game 3. A Moore spike broke Paris' serve, then consecutive kills by McDonald and Morgan tied the game.
Sulphur Springs finally took control of the game on an Owens spike and a McDonald tip.
"I think teamwork was the difference," McDonald said. "Our team is so close this year because so many of our players have played together before in either softball or volleyball. I think our teamwork helped us get through it in the end."
She finished with seven kills, and Owens had five kills and two assists. Reams added eight assists to go with eight points and four aces. Moore led the team in points with 13 and contributed four kills.
Paris finished off Game 4 by winning nine of the final 11 points to set up the Game 5 showdown.
"They play tips well, they move well, they're very athletic and they have that big girl (Robinson) who can hit the ball," McCullough said. "Fortunately for us, we were able to stay in there, play level the whole game and then finish the job.
"We played some tough teams in five games, and you hope that when you do that in a non-district schedule that it pays off when you get in a Game 5 in a district game. You hope the girls have experienced that type of pressure and that type of situation and that they can come through in the end, and tonight we were able to do that.