In the Battle of Mill Creek rivalry match last Friday night, the No. 14 Sealy Lady Tigers hosted the No. 5 Bellville Brahmanettes on the volleyball court and raced out to a two-set advantage, but the visitors rallied to force a decisive fifth set.
For both teams, it was the first time extending to a do-or-die set to 15 points so both head coaches took the intermission to rally their troops. Sealy rallied harder and beat the cross-county rivals three sets to two.
“I had everybody sit down because especially with us not having tournaments, we haven’t been able to play real long sets,” Sealy head coach Kim Boyd said. “We told them this is just going to have to be something that you push through and (we established to play with no regrets so) don’t come back and say I wish I was more conditioned or I wish we had more energy at the end.”
“I’m very proud of (coming back from down 0-2), I think our girls are full of fight. We haven’t played a five-gamer yet this year, the most we’ve been is four against Wimberly so I was very pleased,” Bellville head coach Susan Brewer said. “We came back and we put ourselves in a position to win.”
Late in the final set, the Brahmanettes held a 13-8 lead but the Lady Tigers stormed back and collected four straight points before Bellville scored again. Sealy forced a timeout after cutting the deficit to 14-13 but already stole much of the momentum and rode the wave to the next three points to secure the upset, three sets to two, in front of as big a crowd as can be hosted in the coronavirus pandemic era.
“That’s what both teams want; they want their crowd; they want to be able to play hard. I feel like they were able to bring the number amount of fans they want and so were we,” Boyd said. “The girls were saying, ‘We’re playing for the crowd, we’re playing for them on top of us, they came to support us and they’re doing everything they can for us so we need to play harder for them,’ they were very specific about saying that in the fifth set.”
“Five games is tough on a crowd,” Brewer said. “I believe no matter how good both teams are, it’s just tough. You sit on these benches for a long time and the cheering helps and I thought they both responded very well, I was proud of our side and I thought Sealy did a good job of cheering on their team as well.”
A trio of senior Lady Tigers confirmed they fed off the crowd’s energy, most notably when they were warding off the comeback attempt late in the match.
“I’ll say this is probably the loudest our gym has been since I’ve been here, the floor was shaking,” said outside hitter Brylie Nedd. “The Tiger pride was definitely showing out there.”
“Everyone showing up and showing out definitely helped the team,” middle block Ally Dickens added. “When their side got loud, our side got louder – especially when we were down. The team needed that boost from someone other than the coaches.”
“I also think a big factor was our mentality for the match was that we had a whole community behind us. We were playing for our town, we were playing to be a Sealy Tiger and I feel like that was something else that helped motivate us,” right side hitter Avery Oliver said. “We weren’t going to lose in front of our whole town when we knew they all came to support us.”
That support will be needed one more time if the teams finish tied atop the district standings at the end of the regular season as both head coaches concurred they would play a tiebreaking match instead of flipping a coin to decide who wins the district championship and No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
“If we can beat Bellville once, we can beat them again and we can win district and get first seed in the playoffs and it shows us that our team can beat hard teams like this,” Dickens said. “This shows that our team has the talent and potential to go far.”
With the focus on a long stay in the postseason, Boyd knows the tiebreaker will only serve as the final prep the team needs heading into the playoff bracket.
“If we split at the end, we will then have to play a tough opponent leading into the playoffs and that’s what we really needed because in the playoffs we are going to have to play really tough teams, especially if we get to the second round,” the Lady Tigers’ head coach said.
In the updated state rankings released by the Texas Girls Coaches Association earlier this week, the teams swapped positions with Sealy jumping up to No. 9 ahead of the Brahmanettes who dropped to No. 10.
By the end of the five-set thriller, Nedd collected 24 kills and four blocks and Dickens collected eight kills, four blocks and an ace. Junior Breanna Brandes racked up 29 assists, 22 digs, nine kills, three blocks and a pair of aces.
Freshman classmates Jasmyne Joiner (five blocks) and Blair Kram (14 assists) provided sizeable contributions to help the team. Seniors Alyssa Foertsch (14 digs, ace), Brooks Kram (10 digs, two aces) and Bailey Koy (ace) also aided the Lady Tigers to victory.