190924_drc_sp_ Denton v. Braswell VBall_09.JPG

Denton’s Brooke Reinhardt (7) hits the ball just over the net during the second set of the match against Braswell on Tuesday in Denton. The Lady Broncos won in three sets.

Injuries to senior outside Sydney Soto and sophomore Abby Folsom left the Lady Broncos shorthanded entering their contest with an explosive Braswell team Tuesday night at home. As a result, several players moved around or played more points than usual for Denton (25-9, 4-0), but there was little discomfort.

In fact, it was the Lady Bengals (10-22, 0-3) who were unsettled, as Denton’s dominant defense and power hitting kept Braswell at bay in a straight-set win (25-5, 25-16, 25-13). The Lady Broncos have now won 18 straight district games dating back to 2017.

After a grueling five-set win over The Colony on Friday, this was exactly the type of performance Denton coach Cassie Headrick wanted to see from her team.

“I saw resilience,” Headrick said. “We were a little unsure of things after Friday’s match, and to see them come out and do what we wanted to do was great. I’m really proud of them all the way around.”

The Lady Broncos’ serving dictated most points, as Braswell’s serve-receive was unable to consistently reapply pressure on Denton, allowing the Lady Broncos to have openings on offense.

With Soto and Folsom out, junior Taylor Thomas stepped up and emphatically ended points time after time, finishing with 14 kills in the win. Leah Stolfus had nine kills of her own and controlled the middle.

“Everyone stepped up and everyone did their part tonight,” Headrick said. “We served and passed well to get them out of system, and that kept the ball in the center so they had to stay with the middle, which really opened up the seam for Taylor. Tonight it was easy to see the speed and power she attacks the ball with.”

While the offense ended points, Denton’s defense was perhaps even more impressive without two of their typical leaders in digs. Five players ended the match with double-digit digs in Kenzie Riggs, Emma Sawko, Campbell Sweeten, Sophie Audirsch and Thomas.

The Broncos did not skip a beat on defense, even though Braswell boasted big hitters like Tytiana Johnson.

“We took some big swings, but the deciding factor was their defense,” Braswell coach Corey Jenkins said. “They were digging up killer shots that most teams wouldn’t dig up. Defensively they played a stellar game and kept the ball in play. They were the best defensive team we’ve seen this season and the best I’ve seen in a long time.”

Jenkins’ team has the entire first half of district play on the road, which he admits has forced the team to adjust and pull out even more energy since they’re not in front of their fans and students. The struggle to find that next gear showed and an experienced Denton team pounced on that early and often.

“We played kind of tired, so we just have to bring the focus every single time,” Jenkins said. “We’re playing the whole first half away, so we have to fight and take some and play harder, but that’s no excuse. That’s just a really good [Denton] team. That’s probably the best team we’ve played all season.”

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