The Lady Yellow Jackets looked across the net and saw what they hoped they could be.
Pottsboro had four options up front and each one represented varying degrees of experience. And the Lady Cardinals relied on that as Pottsboro defeated the Lady Jackets, 25-15, 25-15, 26-24, in a non-district match at Denison on Tuesday night.
“It varies from game to game. It’s not the same person every night,” Lady Cardinals head coach Marshall Wallace said. “I like that and they’re okay with it too. The older kids are taking the younger kids in and bring them to their level.”
Senior Tatum Marburger and sophomore Destiny Daniel are the holdover varsity standouts. Junior Rani Elder and freshman Madeline O’Hanlon are making an impact in their first opportunities. It all added up to a sweep for Pottsboro (12-4) and had Denison (2-13) seeing what depth spread across a roster can do.
“We’re real young. We started three freshmen tonight,” Lady Jackets head coach Jana Kelly said. “They’re inexperienced and make freshman mistakes. There’s going to be a time when they don’t make them anymore and that takes time.”
Kiara Scott had six kills to lead Denison while Taylor Greenameyer and Sahara Crawford chipped in two kills apiece. Melanie Garcia handed out 13 assists, Courtney Gillespie added 11 assists after getting called up to varsity the day before, Jaydan Hunt put down three aces and Lexi Williams collected five digs.
Daniel led Pottsboro with nine kills and five blocks, Elder added five kills and two blocks, Marburger totaled four kills and eight digs, O’Hanlon had four blocks, Kelli Frye added eight assists and seven digs and Ansleigh Oakley collected 16 digs.
The Lady Cardinals were able to hold off Denison’s attempt to extend the match in a spirited finish to Game 3.
“There’s a lot of times they show a lot of heart and a lot of fight but it’s not consistent,” Kelly said. “We’re still on a roller coaster. The girls are staying pretty positive. They are working hard.”
Scott put down a kill as Denison took the first three points of the frame and after Pottsboro came back to claim its first lead at 7-5, the Lady Jackets used a 5-0 run, capped by a Greenameyer block, for an 11-8 advantage. The lead was short-lived as the Lady Cardinals came away with five straight points of their own.
Once Denison was able to pull even at 15, the intensity stuck around until the final point. The Lady Jackets went in front and had an 18-15 lead before Pottsboro responded and tied the score at 18 with a combo block by Daniel and Elder. The Lady Jackets didn’t back down and led 21-19. Pottsboro had an answer three more times, including a Marburger kill when Denison was facing game point. The Lady Cardinals earned the next two to avoid a Game 4.
The Lady Cardinals won the second game by the same margin as the first but it came in a different way. Pottsboro had a to overcome an early deficit and Denison tied things up three times, the last at 10 on a Garcia ace, before a 5-0 spurt by the Lady Cardinals was the start of an 11-2 run capped by Elder overpowering a block after a Daniel ace to help close out the game.
Pottsboro opened the match by earning eight of the first 10 points and was never really threatened. Daniel and Elder fueled the fast start and Denison was never able to get closer than six points. When the Lady Jackets cut the lead to 15-9, Pottsboro reeled off four straight points to get back ahead by double digits.
“We tend to start slow,” Kelly said. “One of our team goals is to start strong and stay strong. We couldn’t dig ourselves out of that hole.”
Pottsboro started the season by winning the Princeton Tournament and then split six matches at the NCTC Tournament last week. The Lady Cardinals head to the Whitesboro Tournament this weekend and have three non-district matches before opening district play.
“We need to be more consistent. This is a big week for us,” Wallace said. “We need to find out where we are. I think we’re about to find out who we are.”
Once the Lady Cardinals get into District 10-3A action, the competition with Callisburg, Gunter, Pilot Point and Whitesboro will be fierce for the four playoff spots.
“Our district, there’s some really good teams in it and I’m afraid a good team is going to be left home,” Wallace said. “In fact, I know a good team is going to be left out.”
Denison will also compete in the Whitesboro Tournament before facing Celina, Gainesville and Anna to close out non-district play. The Lady Jackets will open District 10-5A action on September 12 when they host Wylie East.