A scrappy Gateway Lady Gators team gave the Thrall Tigerettes (17-9) a tough match Tuesday night, but Thrall picked up the sweep 25-23, 25-20, 25-18.
“I thought the girls played well considering our setter got hurt during warmups,” said Thrall Coach Bethany Grissom. “It was a tough match for us.”
Gateway, led by senior middle blocker Hannah Miller’s two kills, matched the Tigerettes point for point through opening minutes of the first set as both teams struggled to gain an advantage over the other. But, when McKenna Knapek got the serve for the Tigerettes the visitors seemed to gain the momentum. Chandra Reed tallied three kills and Knapek served up an ace that pushed the Tigerettes out to a 13-8 lead before they relinquished the serve.
Speaking of Miller, Grissom said, “I thought she played a good match considering she was playing middle blocker against Chandra.”
The Lady Gators found their own groove with the help of a series of Thrall errors that eventually tied the score at 16-16. An ace by Addison LeCates gave Gateway its first lead since the early going and a kill by Julia Vandagriff made the score 18-16 before Thrall recorded a side out and regained the serve.
Gateway clung to the lead until another Reed kill knotted the score at 22. She then teamed up with Riley Krenek for a block of Miller and tallied another kill on a quick set by Knapek to give Thrall a 24-22 advantage. The Lady Gators were whistled for too many touches which gave the Tigerettes the set after a service error by Thrall had cut the lead to one.
The home team continued to battle through the second set. Gateway led 8-7 after a kill and a block by Miller, but Kelly Copeland scored on a crosscourt kill and a Lady Gator error put Thrall up 10-8. Thrall extended its lead again on the serves of Knapek and the net play of Reed and the Tigerettes built a 14-10 advantage midway through the set. Gateway would get no closer than three points at 23-20 in the closing moments of the set and their final shot went wide to give Thrall a 2-0 lead in sets.
While the Lady Gators were able to keep the final set close through opening moments, the frustration on their side of the net was evident. Copeland and Krenek tallied multiple kills and Gateway committed multiple errors that allowed Thrall to slowly pull away for the win. Reed scored the final point on a kill to the sideline for the Tigerettes.
Thrall was scheduled to close out the non-district portion of its schedule on Friday when they traveled to Fayetteville to face the eighth ranked Lady Lions (16-4). “This should be a good match for us going into district,” Grissom said. “They have a good team and we’ll have to play well to win.”