MAGNOLIA — Crosstown rivals Magnolia and Magnolia West entered Tuesday night on the bubble of the playoff picture in District 19-5A. The always-spirited contest between the two programs would provide a significant boost for the side that emerged victorious.
Those spoils went to the homestanding Mustangs (16-14, 5-3), who defended their court with a 25-22, 25-19, 26-24 triumph to begin the second round of league action. Magnolia West has now won six of the past seven matchups against the Lady Bulldogs (17-12, 3-5), including both meetings this season.
The Mustangs also snapped a two-game losing streak after starting district play with a 4-1 record. Magnolia West began the evening alone in fourth place in the standings, while Magnolia was fifth.
“It’s just like most rivalries,” Magnolia West coach Bill Reynolds said. “It really doesn’t matter what the record is, and it doesn’t matter if somebody is having a good or bad season. When you face each other, you’re a little too tight or you find an extra burst of energy that you otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s very similar to most rivalries out there across the nation. The kids want to beat the kids they’ve played against — whether it’s in club or junior high. They’ve just got that heated passion to take care of things.”
Magnolia West was led by Alyssa May and Evyn Snook, who each nearly recorded a triple-double. May finished with 12 kills, 15 assists and eight digs, and Snook added 12 kills, 14 assists and eight digs. Ally Wendel collected a team-high 17 digs and six assists, and Daylan Meyers added 15 digs.
Reynolds said he was pleased with his players’ ability to keep their energy level high throughout the night.
“We’re trying to get the kids to understand, we can’t just have energy when we’re winning,” Reynolds said. “We can’t just have energy as an individual when we’re playing well. It’s one of those things that you’ve just got to sell it. You should be the first person to bring the energy and let that feed into your other teammates. So that’s the biggest thing for us — energy.”
Magnolia was led offensively by Ellie Anderson, who finished with a team-high 11 kills. Lily Dalton and Marissa Moffatt collected eight and six kills, respectively, and Claire McCusker finished with 30 assists. Kaylyn Fojt delivered 16 digs on the back line, and Megan Plant added eight.
Magnolia jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening game, but the Mustangs quickly found their footing with a 5-0 run to pull ahead. The teams battled closely throughout the rest of the set, but Magnolia West gained some steam down the stretch. With the score tied at 19, the Mustangs produced a 3-0 spurt that was just enough cushion for them to hold on for the victory.
“I think we just made more errors,” Magnolia coach Ashley Farris said of the match as a whole. “We had more errors at the net than they did, and I think that’s what really hurt us in the end.”
The Lady Bulldogs had an 8-5 advantage early in the second set, but once again, the home team was able to respond. With the score tied at eight, the Mustangs tallied seven of the next nine points to garner a 15-10 edge. Magnolia West went ahead by as many as six points as they held on for a 2-0 match lead.
Magnolia West pulled ahead by five points at 23-18 late in the final set and seemed poised for an easy finish, but Magnolia was not ready to fold. The Lady Bulldogs rallied to knot the game at 24 before the Mustangs ultimately put down the final two points.
Magnolia West returns to action at 6 p.m. Friday at College Station. The Mustangs dropped a five-set thriller against the Lady Cougars earlier this year. Magnolia, meanwhile, will play host to Brenham at the same time that evening. The Lady Bulldogs were swept by the same team during the first round.
“We’ve been trying to build our confidence back up,” Farris said. “This whole season, that’s kind of what we’ve been focusing on, and I feel like in that third set, we showed that we can do this. I feel like we showed a lot of confidence, and that’s something we can use against Brenham on Friday.”