WAXAHACHIE — Mansfield Legacy High School (17-14) entered Friday's match against Waxahachie High School (35-8) at George W. Solis Gymnasium looking for an upset of the state's No. 6 5A team.
What Janell Fitzgerald, Keyannu Strange and the Lady Broncos found was their fifth loss of district, a raucous home crowd and a Lady Indians team resolute in finishing the season with their undefeated district record intact for the first time in more than a decade.
The Lady Indians used 56, 31 and 40 total digs, assists and kills and a collective team hitting percentage of .283 to beat Mansfield Legacy 25-11, 26-24, 25-13 and move to 11-0 in District 10-5A.
"We knew they had a lot of offense and last time they gave us all we could handle, so we watched film and made the adjustments," said Sandy Faussett, the Lady Indians head volleyball coach, about her team's focus on stopping Fitzgerald, Strange and the Lady Bronco front line. "They started the same way [as they did during the first round of district] and that helped us to know what to expect. I have to give credit where credit is due. With the exception of the second set, that's probably the best we've played since tournament season."
The Lady Indians finished their non-district schedule 18-2 before suffering back-to-back losses to Aledo and Hebron High Schools.
Waxahachie weathered early storms from Fitzgerald, Strange and Qurea Madden, whose kills were responsible 17 of the 37 points scored in the second and third sets, and responded with season-best performances by 13 of the 15 girls on the roster.
Seniors Shelby Martin (.524) and Madelyn Ward (.438) led the Lady Indians in hitting, Martin, seniors Hannah Ramirez and Nikki Almaguer and junior Taylor Stoops combined for 31 assists and Ward and sophomore Essence Clerkley added seven and four kills apiece.
Ramirez and sophomore Audrey Nalls dug 18 and 11 balls, respectively, and sophomore Alli Wells added seven.
While the loss dropped the Lady Broncos — with Midlothian High School's 3-1 defeat by Mansfield Lake Ridge High School — into a fourth-place tie with the Lady Panthers, the win secured a three-game lead fir the Lady Indians over second place Red Oak High School.
It also set the two teams on a path toward a thrilling series finale at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Red Oak High School Competition Gymnasium, Faussett said, allowing a grin to creep across her usually stoic features.
"They're playing great right now and on a five-game win streak going into tonight," she continued. "They have a lot of talent and are very skilled. We always look forward to playing Red Oak because it's just a battle. I've been here for 15 years and there's never been a time where we didn't so badly want to beat [Red Oak] and [their team] so badly want to beat us."
NUMBERS OF THE NIGHT: The Lady Indians 16 aces is the highest total since earning 19 against Lancaster High School on Sept. 30. Waxahachie High School has accumulated 112 aces during their district schedule, but have increased their numbers in the second half.
After landing 35 aces in games against Mansfield Lake Ridge, Midlothian, Mansfield Summit and Mansfield Legacy High Schools, they placed 42 in their second matchups with the teams.