SPORTS >> Bears sweep Lady Devils
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
The Lady Red Devils mounted strong comebacks to take over the lead from Sylvan Hills in the second and third games Thursday at the Devils Den; they just did it too soon.
Sylvan Hills (4-6, 2-1) swept Jacksonville (3-8, 0-2) in straight games, 25-13, 25-17 and 25-20 for a 3-0 decision in the match. Although the first game was a blowout for the Lady Bears as indicated by the score, the last two games were closer than what the final margins indicate.
The Lady Bears duo of Megan Gwatney and Emily Nichols proved too much for Jacksonville when on the front line. Sophomore Tyra Terry was the only Lady Devil getting good attacks on a consistent basis at the front for Jacksonville.
“That was our best match of the season by far,” Lady Bears coach Lara Allred said. “We cut our team errors in half from our previous games. The passing was incredible; it helped our setters to not have to work as hard.”
Gwatney didn’t get going until the closing moments of the opening game. Her first kill of the match put the Lady Bears up 15-8. Another kill for Gwatney moments later put Sylvan Hills up 19-9.
The second game was when she really came alive. Gwatney dominated the net through the second frame, recording nine of her total 19 kills, and blocking three attempts from the Lady Devlis.
Despite Gwatney’s hot hand, the Lady Devils kept things close in the second game until the halfway point. Sylvan Hills started out strong in the game, quickly marching out to a 4-0 lead. Terry and big Maria Livings kept Jacksonville in the game with kills from Terry, and Livings used her extreme height advantage to come away with a pair of blocks. The Lady Red Devils caught up to tie the game at 10-10 before the momentum switched yet again.
Two straight aces from Nichols put Sylvan Hills back up by three. While Gwatney dazzled everyone early in the game with a one-woman show, the Lady Bears used a team effort to close out the frame. Senior Leah Vest’s kill put Sylvan Hills up by five, and an ace for Joanna Persson gave SH an 18-11 advantage. Gwatney came from the back line for Sylvan Hills to put the game away with a kill for the 25-17 decision.
The final game was almost a repeat of the second game. An early advantage for Sylvan Hills was erased by Jacksonville. The Lady Red Devils overtook SH to go up 8-7 off a kill by Marieka Bell.
Livings helped keep Jacks-onville out front for several minutes, finally using her size to record two straight kills. That would put the Lady Red Devils up 12-10, and Sylvan Hills took a time out to talk things over.
The Lady Bears apparently talked themselves into preventing a fourth game during their break. A kill from Gwatney, followed by an ace from Vest and a kill for Nichols tied the game at 13 all.
Jacksonville fought hard to prevent the Lady Bears from stealing the momentum, taking the lead back 16-15 on a kill by Livings that was awkward, but effective. The first two Lady Devils’ hits during the rally were off the mark, and Livings punched the ball to simply keep it live. The ball took a wicked spiral off her knuckle, spinning just over the net and onto the floor on the SH side to give Jacksonville the go-ahead point.
It would be the last time Jacksonville saw the lead in the match. Sylvan Hills proved their closing skills once again in the final game, holding the Lady Devils to only four more points in the game while adding 10 of their own for the win .
Gwatney led all players with 19 kills and four blocks. Nichols finished with five blocks and three aces. For Jacksonville, Terry had nine kills and an ace.