On middle school night, student-athletes from Bonham, Lamar and Travis Science Academy made it a priority to enthusiastically mimic the public address announcer inside Wildcat Gym.
Into the microphone, he’d say “Point, Temple,” anytime the Tem-Cats lit up their side of the scoreboard. And with unwavering exuberance, the response in unison echoed, “Point, Temple.”
The cheers were louder still on occasions when Tem-Cats players such as Keagan Bankston came up with a dig, Claire Little blocked a shot back over the net or Dawn Smith landed a kill. Even Hewitt Midway head coach Ryan Porter noticed the leveled-up liveliness.
“I thought Temple’s fans were awesome,” he said. “This is a bigger turnout than we’ve had in a while, so great job by their fans coming out and being supportive.”
As vocal as those youthful backers were, though, Porter’s Pantherettes made the most noise on the court using an assortment of hitters and notched a 25-13, 25-7, 25-14 victory in Temple’s District 12-6A opener Tuesday.
Midway (25-10, 2-0) had four players with at least five kills, including a team-high eight from Kenna McKenzie as the Pantherettes wrapped up a second consecutive 3-0 decision to begin district.
“Midway is a great team, solid, so I told them, again, I want to see them compete,” said Temple head coach Anna Anderson, whose team had the Pantherettes in its sights in each set only to have the visitors reel off extended runs to pull away. “They are seeing that they can create good things that happen on the court together, and I feel like they are getting close as a team.”
As for the extra effort from the large cast of volleyball hopefuls in the stands, Anderson said, “They are our future and we are here at Temple because Bonham, Travis and Lamar feed into what we do here. So, I think there is that family and everybody has a purpose in our program. It was fun.”
Smith led Temple (5-22, 0-1) with three kills, and Bankston and Dejah Thomas had two apiece. Bankston added 15 digs from the back row where libero Alyssa Yepma tallied eight.
“I kept telling them, ‘Just play — just play,’ and I really think they did that tonight,” Anderson said. “We worked again on a different rotation and there was some good stuff. We’re just going to keep working.”
Bailey Jones, Hannah McCarver and Miriam Williams each produced five kills for Midway, which got 19 assists from Cambry Saul and served nine aces split across five players in the match.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Porter said. “I think that’s what probably sets us apart in our district.”
While others in 12-6A played Friday, Temple had an open date, and the Tem-Cats’ eagerness to get league action underway showed in Game 1. Temple shook off an early 8-3 deficit and twice was within one point, 11-10 and 12-11. But the Pantherettes pieced together a 9-0 run for separation then closed the first set by scoring six of eight.
Spurts of 7-0 and 8-0 put Game 2 in Midway’s corner, but the Tem-Cats in Game 3 made the Pantherettes work for the sweep.
Temple took its first lead of the match after the second of two straight Taylor Regula aces, and a 5-0 run put the home team ahead 10-5. Midway answered later in the set with a 9-0 run for a 16-11 advantage, and the Pantherettes sewed up the matter by scoring nine of the final 12 points.
“I thought our girls came out a little bit unfocused. They weren’t locked in. We made too many errors. Even in set three, it was 10-5, and they made 10 errors in 10 points,” Porter said. “But, we have a lot of really good seniors who’ve played a lot of ball, so they know how to respond and not let the world go on tilt if they mess up.”
Temple is back in Wildcat Gym on Friday with Copperas Cove in town while Midway steps out of district to host China Spring.