Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Volleyball: Lady Raiders rally for win over Little Elm
For weeks, Ryan head volleyball coach Cindy Williams has been wary of her team's tendency to start slowly.
Yet, for all the hand-wringing and worrying, those fears seemed to be inconsequential.
That is, until Tuesday night.
The Lady Raiders narrowly escaped what would have been a shocking upset, rallying from a one-set deficit to pull out a 24-26, 25-20, 24-26, 25-18, 15-7 win over Little Elm.
"It was a battle," Williams said. "The entire team figured out pretty quickly that Little Elm came ready to play. Our thing coming in was, 'play to our level.' We didn't start out playing to our level, and that hurt us. It just took us that many games to get our head back in it."
A Ryan (20-7, 8-1) loss would have sent shockwaves through District 4-4A, which has been dominated by a two-horse race between the Lady Raiders and The Colony.
On Tuesday, though, Little Elm looked like it was plenty capable of competing with the district front-runners - even after being swept by Ryan less than a month ago.
After starting the first half of district play by losing five of its first six matches, the Lady Lobos (12-16, 3-6) entered the match against Ryan with the momentum of a two-match winning streak brought on by upset wins over Lake Dallas and Denton.
They nearly pulled one over on the Lady Raiders, too.
After splitting the first two sets, it seemed like Ryan would take control of the match midway through the third set. The Lady Raiders used a 11-2 run midway through the set to jump out to an eight-point lead and, even after Little Elm mounted a small comeback, looked to be in control after rallying back to take a 21-14 lead.
The Lady Lobos weren't done, though, clawing back by way of a 10-2 run that gave them a 24-23 lead late in the set. After the two teams traded points, Little Elm closed out the set to take a startling lead heading into the fourth set.
It was only the second time all season a district opponent has won two sets against the Lady Raiders. The other time was during The Colony's sweep of Ryan back on Sept. 21.
"[Little Elm] was focused, they came into it really determined and they've improved so much just from the last time we played them," Williams said. "They were prepared tonight."
The Lady Lobos continued their momentum into the fourth set, taking an early 9-4 lead before the Lady Raiders started their long climb back. Ryan managed to finally tie the score at 15 midway through the set before going on a 10-3 run to close it out.
Despite its early struggles, Ryan fought back behind the play of Hannah Marshall, Corrie Reeder and Whitney Mills along with vocal leadership of senior Halee Clark.
Clark's play on the court was solid enough - she finished with 13 kills on the night - but her constant urging and encouragement in the fourth set seemed to help Ryan get back on track.
"I was just saying that we needed to find it in ourselves to bounce back," Clark said. "I told them no ball should hit the ground until we get at least three touches in on it. We needed to go all out."
Her teammates certainly responded - especially Mar-shall. The senior posted 16 kills, 27 assists and 11 digs on the night to notch a triple-double. Reeder, meanwhile, also had 16 kills while Mills had 10 kills along with 16 assists.
Their play helped Ryan close out the match in the fifth set, using a 7-1 start to coast to a 15-7 win and salvage the victory.
"The kids have that mindset - to fight," Williams said. "That's the kind of people they are. They want to get out there, and they're not going to quit even when things get bad. They started seeing some things that we hadn't been taking care of - things that, when you don't do them, generally end up putting you on the short end."
MARSHALL MOORE can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .