By BRAD KEITH
BURLESON (August 9, 2016) — Stephenville took control by dominating the first two sets, then after allowing Burleson to stay alive in the third, wiped out an early fourth-set deficit with a commanding 10-0 run that ultimately spelled victory in the season opener.
It’s the first time Stephenville has defeated 5A Burleson since 2012, ending a streak of three consecutive season-opening losses. The Bees won 25-16, 25-9, 19-25, 25-14. They are idle this weekend with their home opener at Gandy Gym set for next Tuesday against 5A Abilene Cooper.
“A lot of things we worked on after our scrimmages I could tell we improved on tonight, so I’m very pleased,” said Stephenville head coach Fran Metzger. “Our seniors did a great job of leading us, and we just have to keep feeding off them.”
The opening set – like most – was never close. Stephenville jumped on top 14-7 and led 18-9 after Burleson’s fourth early penalty. Burleson cut it to 20-13 on a Stephenville penalty and a Lady Elk ace, but then committed consecutive errors to push the Bees’ advantage back to nine.
Burleson cut it back to 22-16, but a kill by Stephenville sophomore Jayci Morton restored order before a Burleson hitting error and a stuff by Emily Brandon of the Bees ended the set.
An ace by sophomore outside hitter Chloe Goodman and a tip by senior middle Nicona Stilwell opened up a 7-2 lead for Stephenville in the second set, which proved to be their most dominant of the evening. it was 11-6 before back-to-back aces by Kylee Ponder, a senior defensive specialist. Senior setter and outside hitter Taylor Garber took over down the stretch with consecutive kills for a 17-6 lead, consecutive aces to push it to 22-8 and a dump that made it 24-9. Goodman won it with an ace.
Burleson grabbed its first lead of any set at 4-3 in the third, and wouldn’t go away. An Emily Brandon kill brought Stephenville within one at 10-9, but Burleson scored the next four to take command. A Goodman kill cut it to 23-19 before a Stephenville error and Lady Elk kill forced a fourth set.
Burleson appeared determined to make it a marathon match with a 6-3 lead early in the fourth, but Stephenville had other plans, using its 10-0 run to put the match away. A Burleson error began the Honeybee surge, and it continued with kills by Morton and Brandon and an ace by Stilwell for a 7-6 lead.
Burleson head coach D’Anna Dingler, a former Tarleton State basketball player, called timeout, but the Bees kept rolling. Two kills by Brandon – one on a crafty tip nobody saw coming – and one by Morton highlighted the rest of the run, which made it 13-6. The match ultimately ended when Burleson couldn’t handle a serve by Goodman, digging it over the net and beyond the back line on match point.