The Lady Rebels raced out to an 18-5 lead in the opening set and cruised to the win. Centennial managed to build a 10-8 lead in the second set before Franklin used a 9-4 run to jump in front. Heflin had back-to-back kills to trigger the spurt, while Amsler helped close the set with a kill down the middle and an ace. The Lady Cougars led by as many as seven in the third set before Franklin battled to a 21-21 tie and actually took the lead on a Lady Cougar hitting error. Lillian Para stuffed a Lady Rebel attack in the middle and back-to-back Franklin hitting errors gave the home team a 25-22 win to avoid the sweep.
"You know we lost six seniors last year who contributed to our rotation and this is probably one of the youngest varsity squads I have had, but they are ready to fight," Centennial coach Adrienne Core said. "I think we showed some nerves early … but after struggling those first two sets, the girls turned it around and held on in the third. I think that's a tough mental battle to come out and be down two sets and go back and fight and close out that third one like we did."
Para finished with nine kills, while Makayla Ridley and Sydnie Waller each added six kills for the Lady Cougars.
Franklin, which had switched between running a 5-1 offense and a 6-2, turned back to the 5-1 system to use their five hitters and one setter for all six rotations and regain consistency on offense. Kennedy Smith finished with 19 assists, while Sydney Van Etta and Sydney Harris also helped guide the Lady Rebels offense. Harris stepped into the rotation in the third and closed out the fourth.
"Centennial made some nice adjustments against us by defending and challenging more from the service line," Franklin coach Amber Holzer said. "I know we won't always be able to get away with running a 5-1, especially in this district, but the girls brought some consistency with it and had better connections. We just tried to pick up the pace and started challenging their spaces a little better instead of just swinging where their defenders were waiting."
The home team again had a fast start in the fourth set, mirroring the third game, but Franklin battled back from a 13-7 deficit to force a 13-13 tie after a Meryl Godwin ace and a Heflin kill down the left side. Amsler notched a kill from the back row and Heflin, who played libero last season, made a diving save as the Lady Rebels grabbed the lead for good. They closed on a 18-2 surge with another Amsler kill sealing the match.
"I think if we have faith in ourselves and if we keep our energy up like we did there, we can compete with just about anyone," Amsler said.
Source: Williamson Herald