SANGER — The Gainesville Lady Leopards are playoff bound.
An exciting five-set victory over the Sanger Lady Indians Friday helped the Lady Leopards punch their ticket to the postseason with one more regular season game to go.
But it wasn’t easy.
Gainesville (30-9 overall, 4-3 district) had to rally from a 2-1 deficit to win 21-25, 25-20, 14-25, 25-17, 15-9. The win means the Lady Leopards can finish no worse than tied for second with Krum. Gainesville and Krum will square off Tuesday night in Krum in the season finale.
Against Sanger, the Lady Leopards looked as if they had run out of gas after getting blown out in the third game 25-14. But needing a win in game four to stay in the match, Gainesville dominated the home team, then kept the momentum in the fifth game.
Game one was a back-and-forth affair. Gainesville took an early 8-4 lead with four service points from Payton Cassidy and kills by Whytneigh Duffie and Ariannah Kemp, but Sanger rallied to take a 14-13 lead. It was tied 17-17 after Brittany Royal and Evan Gregory combined on a block for GHS, but the Lady Indians won some crucial points down the stretch to pull out the 25-21 win.
Gainesville jumped out to an early 8-3 lead in the second game as Zhanice Lane served an ace, but Sanger answered with five-straight points from Erin Kearney to take a 9-8 lead. It was tied 10-10 when Kemp served five in a row for GHS including an ace and two that Sanger couldn’t dig. The lead was still give (18-13) when Sanger again used the serving of Kearney to tie things up at 19-19. But down the stretch, Duffie served five points as the Lady Leopards tied the match with a 25-21 win.
Game three belong to the home team. Gainesville seemed to have no energy as they fell behind 5-1. Nicole Nordie served five in a row as Sanger pushed the lead to 18-7. Kiarah Manuel recorded a pair of kills and Cassidy added one of her own, but Sanger cruised to a 25-14 win to seemingly take control of the match.
But the Lady Leopards said “not so fast my friend.”
They came out on fire in game four. Manuel served six in a row. She also added a kill, Royal had two kills and Duffie had three as Gainesville took an 8-1 lead. Sanger quickly tied things up 9-9 thanks to three kills by Madyson Hillis, but good serving by Duffie, Kemp and Sarah Gerken, along with kills by Manuel and Royal helped Gainesville pull away. Lane ended the game with an ace to the middle of the court to force a fifth and deciding game.
The last game was back-and-forth early. Hillis did the damage at the net for Sanger, while Manuel, Duffie and Kemp each had kills for Gainesville to tie the score at 8-8. Duffie served three straight to put GHS ahead 11-8 and they never looked back. Manuel ended the match with yet another kill and the Lady Leopards celebrated a much-needed district win and their first playoff trip in seven years.
Now Sanger will become Lady Leopard fans as the Lady Indians need Gainesville to defeat Krum Tuesday. That, along with a Sanger win next week would leave both Krum and Sanger with identical 3-5 district records, forcing a playoff for the third playoff berth. If Krum beats Gainesville, then Sanger would be out, and Krum and Gainesville would have to have a one-game playoff to decide second place.