After a close win over Lake Dallas last Tuesday to end the first half of district 6-0, Denton coach Cassie Headrick said her team missed Sydney Soto’s energy and “fire.” The senior outside hitter missed three games, but returned on Tuesday in the Lady Broncos’ match against Ryan and didn’t skip a beat.
Soto put away four of the first six points of the match for Denton, and successfully provided the spark Headrick wanted to see as the Lady Broncos (28-9, 7-0 in District 8-5A) swept the Lady Raiders 25-6, 25-17, 25-17 at home.
“It was just good to see her back and she’s ready to play,” Headrick said of Soto. “In your senior year, you want to be involved, and we’ve been able to see her confidence go up more and more in practice. She passed well, moved well — it was Sydney. It was a deep breath to see.”
Soto finished the night with a team-high 17 kills in the three-set match, but Denton was unable to completely dampen the spirit of Ryan (12-24, 0-7) in the win. The Lady Raiders fought back and hustled to get the ball back in play time after time, forcing the Lady Broncos to hit more balls than perhaps they expected.
The rugged play and effort from Ryan extended points and sets time and again against the reigning district champs.
“The big positives were they got more energy, listened and changed to start feeding the hitters that were more successful,” Ryan coach Nicole Hervey said. “They picked up their play. I made a couple changes in the lineup and kids stepped up to fix some things, and it helped us in the second and third games.”
Ryan’s hustle turned into points, as the Lady Raiders hung with Denton early in Sets 2 and 3, even being tied at 12 in the third set. Eventually, the Lady Broncos pulled away behind Soto, Taylor Thomas and company.
Thomas finished with 10 kills and a team-high 20 digs, while Campbell Sweeten pitched in eight kills and 18 digs of her own. Setter Sophie Audirsch is out for the remainder of the season with an injury, so sophomore Abby Folsom took over most of the setting duties and finished with 32 sets and 12 digs.
Denton faces Justin Northwest on Friday night at home with major implications for the district title. Headrick knows her team is ready, but the focus will need to be there to pull out the win.
“We got the job done tonight,” Headrick said. “The first game we came out really sharp and then we got sloppy. We weren’t as sharp as what we have to be on Friday, but we weren’t as focused as what we’re going to have to be on Friday.
“Against Northwest, we have to control what’s going on our side just as much as we have to know what’s going on on their side.”