A simple, but timeless message was scrawled on a blue paper sign and taped to the back of the Bishop Reicher Gym, reading, “Hard Work Pays Off.”
It really does. But not always overnight.
Ovilla Christian’s superior size and consistency overpowered the hard-working Lady Cougars, as the visiting Eagles snatched a 25-13, 25-14, 25-10 win on Tuesday night.
It certainly makes a difference for a team when you are blessed with a player a head taller than anyone else on the court. Ovilla (19-7-2) leaned on the luxury of not just one such player, but two. The Eagles frequently took advantage of six-foot freshman Sophie Henry’s towering talents at middle blocker. But when Henry needed a breather, they simply rotated in Kristen Prendergrast, another middle blocker roughly the same size.
But it wasn’t just a size advantage that gave Ovilla a smooth bus ride back to the Metroplex. The Eagles won three consecutive TAPPS Class 2A state championships from 2018-2020, and their playoff-tested stable of thumpers finished off points with far more power and precision than the still-learning Lady Cougars (9-7).
Bishop Reicher’s back-row defense, led by the likes of Abby Mann and Amelia Duron, showed a steady hand throughout. They made Ovilla work for its putaways. But unfortunately for Amber Bray’s Bishop Reicher club, those initial passes rarely yielded in-system, third-shot opportunities for the home team. Reicher routinely tapped over returns on a second touch, or opted for ineffective tips and dinks instead of smashing spikes.
And God forbid Reicher let loose an overpass, because Ovilla’s Prendergrast and Henry made short work of such errors with easy stuffs at the net.
Reicher never lacked for hustle, but it still didn’t always lead to successful results against the gritty Eagles. That showed on the point of the night, a long volley filled with sprawling digs and instinctive, point-extending pokes on both sides. But Reicher could never get the putaway it wanted, and finally Ovilla captain London Upchurch slapped an attack that trickled through the Cougar defense for the point. That rally gave Ovilla a 20-8 lead in the second set, and sort of summed up the night for Reicher.
In the third set, Ovilla lunged for the jugular and put Reicher away quickly, scoring the first five points, including two on service aces from Upchurch. Later in the set, Ovilla’s Jacinda Lopez came off the bench for her first action of the match, to a rousing cheer from her teammates. Lopez proceeded to rattle off five aces in a string of eight straight points for Ovilla before she finally sailed a serve long of the back line.
Again, Reicher hustled all the way to the end, and the Lady Cougars' Addy Damm found her own rhythm from the service line later, tagging a couple of aces of her own. But Ovilla clinched the sweep when Reicher sailed spikes out of bounds on the final two points of the night.
Reicher will try to get back on track when it hosts La Vega on Friday. It also has a road match at La Vega next Tuesday and a home tilt with Harmony before opening up district play at rival Live Oak on Sept. 30.
Mansfield 3, Midway 1
MANSFIELD — Seniors Ava Williams and Brynn Roberts combined for 31 kills as Mansfield deflected Midway, 25-17, 15-25, 25-9, 25-20, in District 11-6A play.
The homestanding Lady Tigers (20-15 overall, 2-0 district) displayed a high level of efficiency in their attacking, hitting .336 for the match. Williams had 16 kills and Roberts tallied 15.
Midway (15-15 overall, 1-1 district) will try to bounce back Friday at home against Waxahachie, and then hosts crosstown rival Waco High next Tuesday.
China Spring 3, Lake Belton 2
TEMPLE — China Spring had to sweat for its 20th win of the season, but ultimately the Lady Cougars emerged high and dry.
They fended off a feisty effort from Lake Belton, 16-25, 25-9, 25-20, 21-25, 15-10, to improve to 20-9 on the year.
China Spring will host Salado in its final nondistrict tuneup before starting District 18-4A action Sept. 24 against La Vega.
No. 1 Crawford 3, Moody 0
CRAWFORD — The top-ranked Lady Pirates didn’t even have to stretch their legs too much, as they dialed up 11 service aces in a sweep of District 12-2A foe Moody, 25-12, 25-15, 25-11.
Katie Warden dropped in five aces, Lexi Moody whacked four and Addi Goldenberg had two for Crawford, now 26-6 overall and 2-0 in district play. Warden also led the attacking with 13 kills in 23 swings with only three errors, for a .433 attacking percentage.
The Lady Pirates will travel to Bruceville-Eddy on Friday and play Rapoport next week before a much-anticipated clash with No. 2-ranked and unbeaten Bosqueville on Sept. 28.
Parkview Christian 3, Sterling Classical 1
The Lady Pacers pulled out a grinding, four-set win over Sterling at Pacer Gym to start off district play in style, 25-23, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23.
Parkview will continue district action Thursday at Killeen Memorial.