Big swings from the Wharton Lady Tigers (1-4) kept them in the game, but the El Campo Ladybirds (3-2) had too much offense Tuesday night and, they picked up a road win to close out the first leg of district play.
Playing one of their better games this year, the Lady Tigers made the Ladybirds earn most of their points through a tough four sets 25-19, 20-25, 25-16, 25-21.
“We played really good with (El Campo) and we played really good with Navasota,” Wharton coach Kelli Treybig said. “I told the (girls in the locker room) we’re right there with both of those teams.”
El Campo’s offense powered by kills and aces did enough to hold off the Lady Tigers, separating late in three of their four sets.
Ladybird juniors Alyssa Mendez and Ella Jenkins along with sophomore Kate Bodungen had big offensive games scoring the lion-share of their points. At the top of the net for Wharton, seniors Dreana Barrow, Marah Hoskins and Asijah Hammons made things difficult for El Campo.
Bad communication hindered the Ladybirds early, a block and a kill from Hammons helped Wharton jump out to a 6-2 lead in the first set. The Ladybirds chipped away at the lead and went back in front after a 6-0 run, with four points scored by Bodungen on two aces and two kills. El Campo closed out the set on an 11-8 run. Wharton’s Hoskins got hot late landing two kills despite the set being well in hand for El Campo.
In the second set, both teams traded points early. Hoskins continued her momentum putting down two kills to tie the Ladybirds 6-6. Wharton’s offense continued scoring and, after two aces from Barrow, El Campo called a timeout.
The Lady Tigers run ended after nine straight points getting four aces from Barrow and three kills from Hoskins to take a 12-7 lead. El Campo came back slowly and tied the game 20-20. However, another ace from Wharton and a long kill attempt by the Ladybirds forced El Campo’s last timeout. El Campo committed two more unforced errors and Hoskins finished the set with a fake kill, tipping the ball over the Ladybird defense tying the game at 1-1.
“They (have) a very strong offense this year,” Jenkins said. “We battled back pretty hard and we definitely got some work on our defense.”
El Campo started hot in the third set forcing a Wharton timeout with the Ladybirds leading 4-0. The Lady Tigers pulled within 8-7, but a kill from Jenkins and an ace from junior Carli Bullard put them ahead by three.
Wharton went on a 6-0 run getting two kills from Barrow to take the lead for their only time in the set. A couple of Wharton unforced errors, Bodungen kills and sophomore Ella Rod aces helped El Campo go on 15-3 run to end the set.
Back-to-back aces from Mendez helped El Campo start the fourth set 4-1. Wharton’s offense scored, but the Ladybirds held them at arms distance until three straight El Campo unforced errors tied the game 11-11. Both teams swapped scores but El Campo maintained a two-point edge late and led 21-19.
Bodungen scored on a tip and an ace, but an unforced El Campo error and a Hoskins kill kept Wharton within striking distance forcing a Ladybird kill. Jenkins secured the El Campo win with back-to-back points with a tip and a kill.
At a 3-2 district record, the Ladybirds are currently the third playoff seed through the first round of district play.
“It’s pretty good (record),” Jenkins said. “I’m pretty confident in the second round we’ll do even better.”