HARKER HEIGHTS — The Killeen Lady Kangaroos had already fallen against the Harker Heights Lady Knights twice this season. Once was a sweep during Bastrop ISD Classic play and the second was a hard-fought 3-2 home loss during the first round of District 12-6A play.
Killeen lost the first two sets of Tuesday’s rematch, but they weren’t going to make this a three-game slide to their KISD rival.
“Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty and this game was one we definitely had to win,” Killeen senior setter Madison Sapp said.
Senior Dai’Briauna Nash and sophomore Alia Vines had three kills apiece in Game 5 as Killeen beat Harker Heights 3-2 (11-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16, 16-14) at the Harker Heights High School gym.
“I told them it was their turn,” Killeen head coach Joanne Knowles said. “They needed to step up and finish and show everybody they knew how to finish a game.”
The win improved Killeen
(21-16) to 3-6 in district play while Harker Heights (18-21) falls to 2-6. Both teams are competing for one of the final playoff spots out of the district.
“We missed way too many serves in the third set and just never did gain that momentum back,” Harker Heights head coach Shelly Harris. “We’ve just got to take care of that ball when we’re serving.”
Killeen never trailed in the fifth and deciding game as junior middle blocker Jacen Moore put down a point on a volley on the left side of the net for the first point of Game 5. That simple return was the first of six straight Lady Roo points.
“The first two matches, we came out with so much intensity and so much enthusiasm and after winning back-to-back sets we weren’t as hyped,” Lady Knights senior hitter Aennetra Hill said. “That’s really what gets us to win matches and communication kept going down and down and down.”
Killeen led by as many as six points and Lady Roo senior Crystal Innocent had an ace to force match point at 14-11, but the Lady Knights responded.
A Hill spike was the first of three straight Harker Heights points to tie Game 5 at 14-14.
“Ever since the last time against Heights, we’ve been doing a Game 5 drill in practice every single day in case they got into that point again,” Knowles said. “They played how they practice it.”
The senior leadership showed up for Killeen as Nadia Richardson put down a soft lob for her second point of Game 5 to force match point. The Lady Roos clinched the match on a Harker Heights attack error.
After dropping the first two games, Killeen fell behind 14-12 in Game 3, but Moore scored a point on a soft-touch kill to spark a 7-5 Killeen run. Nash put down a spike to clinch the four-point win in Game 3 and get the Lady Roos back into the match.
“Something just clicked in that third set and it all came together,” Sapp said. “We started playing how we know to play.”
Moore helped turn Game 4 around by blocking a spike attempt by Harker Heights senior middle blocker Torie Joiner and cut the Lady Knights lead to 8-7. That point sparked a 12-1 Lady Roos run capped by an ace by Killeen junior Tiara Joiner and extended Killeen’s lead to 18-9.
The Lady Knights got a pair of aces by senior setter Toso Leae, but Vines forced game point with a kill and Moore tied the match at two games apiece with a kill.
The finish was not ideal for the Lady Knights, but Harker Heights was the aggressor early on as senior middle blocker Torie Joiner scored the first Lady Knights point of the match with a block that helped Harker Height begin the match on a 10-4 run.
Harket Heights led Game 1 by as many as 12 points as Joiner’s successful lob forced game point and the Lady Knights won the first game after a Killeen attacking error.
Though the Lady Roos led Game 2 18-12, the Lady Knights responded with a Hill kill, the first of three straight Harker Heights points, which sparked a 9-1 run.
Harker Heights took a 2-0 lead after a kill from senior outside hitter Kennedi Foster.
The Lady Knights hope to bounce back Friday when they visit Shoemaker (22-16, 0-9).
“You don’t ever want to lose to anybody so I hope we walk out focused for every single match,” Harris said.
The Lady Roos hope to improve their playoff chances and avenge an earlier district loss when they host Ellison (19-18, 3-5) on Friday.
“After our last round of district, our focus was on finishing games,” Knowles said. “After tonight, our focus is on starting games.”