RED OAK — If learned from correctly, history — whether on a volleyball court or in another walk of life — will not repeat itself.
Determined to prove their growth following a five-set homecoming loss to the Red Oak, the Midlothian Lady Panthers gave the Lady Hawks a taste of their own medicine. Midlothian defeated Red Oak in five sets Tuesday night, 19-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 25-11.
“When we first came out, our mindset was they upset us on our home court on our homecoming night. We were bound and determined that wasn’t going to happen again," Midlothian head volleyball coach Teresa Dunn said. "After a slow start in sets one and two, we turned it on.”
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 Aug. 17.
Red Oak still controls its own path to a district championship, as the Lady Hawks are now tied with (28-9, 7-1) Mansfield Lake Ridge atop the 10-5A standings.
The win moved (23-11, 6-2) Midlothian into sole possession of the No. 2 spot in the district. Waxahachie, who swept Lancaster on Tuesday in the return of 2016 10-5A MVP Audrey Nalls, now sits alone in the fourth playoff spot at 5-3 in District 10-5A and 22-13 on the season.
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.
Her team — and a Lady Hawk error — rewarded senior Aubrey Walton after her two digs on a rather lengthy volley that forced Red Oak head volleyball coach Hope Porter to call a timeout with the Lady Hawks leading 22-19. Porter picked up her 300th career win with a victory against Waxahachie on Friday.
Out of the 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.
An unforced error eventually ended the Midlothian run, but Walton responded on the next serve to extend the lead to six points, 12-6.
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 leading 17-8, the Lady Panthers on the court (and their fans in the stands) voiced displeasure with a 50-50 call that went in favor of Red Oak — eerily similar to a play in the first district meeting between the two rivals.
This time, though, Little visually and verbally calmed her team, urging the Lady Panthers to settle down and focus on the task at hand.
They listened, weathered a mini mid-set run by the Lady Hawks and pushed the fourth set to game-point, 24-15. Two serves later, 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 caused Porter to call a timeout to regroup her Lady Hawks 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.
Midlothian will square off against Lancaster on Friday before hosting Mansfield Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Both matches are in Midlothian with Friday's match set for a 5:30 p.m. first serve.
Dunn said her team will have to take care of business against an athletic Lancaster club while avoiding any senior-night distractions.
"They are very athletic. They do a lot of very good things," Dunn said. "They are big on their blocks. And so, when we played them in the first round we did struggle finding those holes because they are one of those teams that nevers let the ball fall.”
*Additional reporting by Mike Sackett/Mirror