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Year in Review: Howe Battles in Tough District

For the Howe Lady Bulldog volleyball team, a four-game losing skid in the middle portion of the District 11-2A season cost it a spot in the postseason.

More specifically, two losses to Whitewright, the second coming at the end of that four-game skid, wiped out the Lady Bulldogs’ hope for a playoff spot.

Howe, with a 7-7 district record, tied with Whitewright for that fourth spot but the two losses to the Lady Tigers during the regular season gave Whitewright the final playoff berth.

After breaking even in four games at the Cooke County Classic, and losing a match at Little Elm, Howe traveled to Blue Ridge to continue its 2013 season. The Lady Bulldogs got off to a good start, winning the first set, 25-17. After Blue Ridge had bounced back to tie the match, Howe eked out a 27-25 win in the third set to get one set away from a win. Blue Ridge came back to win the final two sets, upsetting the Lady Bulldogs with their 3-2 win.

The Lady Bulldogs went into the Whitesboro tournament looking at a tough slate of matches that started with a battle against Gunter.

The state-ranked Lady Tigers were able to hold off a determined group from Howe that pushed Gunter to the limit before losing 25-19 and 25-23 sets. Gunter went on to win the tournament championship.

Injuries began to mount up for Howe as it approached the district season. Riley Harvey was unavailable for the Lady Bulldogs’ final non-district match at Aubrey and senior Hailey DeFrange missed the league opener against Whitewright.

Going into the district season it was pretty clear that Callisburg and Pottsboro would be two of the top teams and possibly four teams would be in a battle for the third and fourth playoff slots.

Howe hoped to be in that group, but losses to Whitewright and Bells to kick off the district season put the Lady Bulldogs in early trouble.

In the Whitewright match, the two teams were evenly matched and with the first set tied at 24-24, the Lady Tigers came away with a 28-26 win. Whitewright was not challenged in the second set, coasting to a 25-18 victory. The third set was a mirror image of the opening set. The two teams fought through ties at 20,21 and 22 each before a winner by Morgan Carney gave Howe the set, 25-23. After ties at 25 and 26 each in the fourth set, Whitewright took the set and match, 28-26.

After losing at Bells, Howe picked up a pair of wins against S&S and Tom Bean before getting into the heavy hitters on the schedule.

Pottsboro came into Howe sporting a 5-0 league record, led by its talented and tall freshman, Destiny Daniel. She led the way as the Lady Cardinals swept the match, 3-0.

Losses at Whitesboro and Callisburg followed and the Lady Bulldogs went into the second half of league play with a 2-5 record. They opened that second half with a trip to Whitewright where the Lady Tigers completed the season sweep, winning the match 3-0, leaving Howe with a district record of 2-6. Whitewright, in fourth place, sat at 5-3.

Howe went into a three-game stretch needing a sweep to hold out any hopes for a postseason berth. Wins over Bells, S&S and Tom Bean got the Lady Bulldogs to 5-6 with a big road trip to Pottsboro on tap.

Riding high with that three-game win streak, Howe pulled off the upset at the ‘Boro, beating the Lady Cardinals 3-2 to take over sole possession of fourth place. Aurian James had seven kills, 31 assists and 20 digs as Howe moved one game ahead of Whitewright in their battle for the final playoff spot.

Whitesboro paid a visit to Howe on Oct. 25, and the Lady Bulldogs continued their winning streak with a 3-1 win over the Lady Bearcats. Riley Harvey had 15 kills to lead the Howe offense and Aurian James, Christina Counts and Tori Abner each had double-digit numbers in digs to pace the defense.

Going into the final match of the season, hosting unbeaten Callisburg, the Lady Bulldogs needed some help from Bells to lock down fourth place in the district.

Callisburg was just too tough to tame, however, as the Lady Wildcats completed a 14-0 run through the league, while Whitewright was beating Bells to take the playoff spot away from the Lady Bulldogs.

For seniors Michaela Bledsoe, Morgan Carnet, Aurian James, Hailey DeFrange and Denise Gallatin it was a disappointing end to their final season of high school volleyball.

All-District honors were awarded to Aurian James, Riley Harvey, Morgan Carney, Christina Counts and Hailey DeFrange.

There are changes for next season as Howe coach Jennifer Sluder has moved on to Pottsboro where she will coach softball.

The Lady Bulldogs will compete in Class 3-A, District 10 next season with teams from Callisburg, Gunter, Pilot Point, Ponder, Pottsboro, S&S and Whitesboro.