MIDLOTHIAN — One year removed from battling down to the wire for a playoff spot, the Midlothian Heritage Jaguars had an opportunity to win a share of the district championship Tuesday night.
The task was no short order. Standing across the net was the Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A No. 3 (43-1, 12-0) Glen Rose Lady Tigers — the only team to defeat the Jaguars thus far in 2017.
Heritage, who entered as the No. 4 team in the TGCA poll, battled the visiting Lady Tigers in front of a capacity crowd, often sending their fans — and bench — into a frenzy during the second, third and fifth sets.
Glen Rose just had the Jaguars number when it mattered most, for a third time this season, and claimed its second-consecutive District 8-4A championship in five sets, 12-25, 25-20, 25-20, 12-25, 13-15. The loss dropped Heritage to 29-3 on the season. The 10-2 record in District 8-4A solidified the second-place finish for the Jaguars, who are followed by Stephenville and Life Waxahachie in the standings with the playoffs beginning next week.
First-year Heritage head volleyball coach Timmi Blackshear credited the play of Glen Rose and noted her team just couldn't seem to "consistently find consistency" at times.
"We don’t have many of those first and fourth type sets (like tonight) or those long runs. For the most part, I felt like we did a good job in the second set and especially rebounding from that first set" Blackshear explained. "I think the second, third and even in the fifth, the difference was we were consistent. We didn’t allow ourselves to make a lot of errors and I definitely see growth from where we were even the first time we played Glen Rose."
Julia Valdez led the way for the Jaguars with 15 kills on 32 swings with just six errors. Karena Tipton recorded four of her nine kills during clutch time in the fifth set. Kelsey Carpenter finished with seven kills, while Katie Greer and Hannah Larson added five, each. Tipton and Larson led the team with three and two blocks, respectively.
Though Heritage recorded just nine service errors on the night, four came during the fourth set. Rachel Richie notched a team-high two aces.
Valdez continued her strong all-around play with a team-high 21 digs to only one error. The senior also broke 49 of the Lady Tiger serves. Chambers added 14 digs and Kaylee Rutenbar accounted for 13.
Tori Needles led Heritage with 21 assists and Richie tallied 19.
As of press time, the Jaguars were still awaiting the result of the Benbrook-Castleberry match scheduled for Friday. Heritage will face the winner in the 4A bi-district championship to likely be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Mansfield Legacy High School.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Glen Rose cruised in the opening set of the TGCA top-5 showdown 25-12. The second game, though, was not near as lopsided — at all.
After Glen Rose battled back to tie the second set at 18, back-to-back Carpenter kills put the Jaguars in front 20-18.
A few serves later, Langford was forced to utilize a timeout after two consecutive Lady Tiger errors put Heritage up three, 23-20.
A third error followed by a Greer ace gave Heritage the second-set win 25-20.
It is safe to say neither the Lady Tigers nor their fans agreed with the first two calls of the third set — a line call after a block and tipped ball. Bryanna Lytle then fired a kill to the center of the Lady Jaguar defense to put Glen Rose on the board.
After a couple errors, Julia Valdez tucked a pair of kills inside the boundary — one to the back right corner and the other down the left side — put the momentum back on the Heritage side of the net. The Jaguars then pieced together four more points to force a Glen Rose timeout. Tipton promptly stuffed a Lady Tiger attack out of the break for a 9-4 Heritage lead.
Glen Rose tied the match at nine behind two Lytle kills from the back row, but two Richie aces and a couple Lady Tiger errors put the Jaguars back up by four, 13-9.
The four-point lead grew to five when Larson slammed a Lady Tiger free ball home and then to six, 18-12, after a Valdez kill.
The Jaguar lead held at half of a dozen until Lytle and Ally Andress sent two Hinton sets to the hardwood.
But again, Valdez was there to answer with a front-row attack and sent a point home from the right side to push Heritage to set point, 24-19.
Tipton tipped the set winner over the Glen Rose block two serves later for the 25-20 Jaguar third-set win.
Heritage managed around four service errors in the third set but was not as lucky in the fourth.
Glen Rose took the first six points of the fourth set, which included outlasting the Jaguars on a long volley for the second point.
Andress began to make her presence known in the middle with two big blocks to keep the Lady Tigers in front through a short Jaguar run.
Kills by Libby Hinton and Laiken McAnear then expanded the Glen Rose advantage to seven, 13-6, and into a Heritage timeout.
Glen Rose eventually took the lead to double digits, 18-8. A Hinton slam of a Jaguar free ball then sent the Lady Tigers and their fans into a frenzy up 19-8.
“Tonight, if it wasn’t a state tournament experience or regional tournament atmosphere, then it was 100 percent, at the bare minimum, playoff atmosphere," Blackshear said. "This was a great opportunity for us to warm up and get ready for the postseason. I appreciate everybody coming out — band, cheer, the fans, everyone — because it really warmed us up for what is to come.”
Heritage never threatened the fourth-set lead after falling down early. Glen Rose tied the match at two sets a piece with a 25-12 win.
Kills by Smith and Andress put the Lady Tigers up 5-3 in the fifth set but a Valdez kill and Glen Rose error followed to knot the decider at five. Carpenter then matched Smith's third kill of the set with one of her own and Tipton tipped home a point for Heritage's first lead, 7-6.
It was short-lived, though, as Lytle answered right back with a missile off of a Hinton assist.
Two errors and Tipton's second kill of the set put the Jaguars five points from the upset, 10-7.
Emma Bozarth recorded an ace out of a Glen Rose timeout and after a Jaguar error to pull the Lady Tigers within one, 10-9. A second Jaguar error then tied the set, but Tipton again found a soft spot with a touch over a Glen Rose block for an 11-10 Heritage lead.
Glen Rose pushed two and retook the lead, 12-11, to force a Heritage timeout.
Two kills from Logan Smith sandwiched around two Jaguars points put the Lady Tiger at match point, and Lytle found the floor with the game-winning kill on the next serve for the 15-13 Glen Rose win.