Pine Tree Sweeps John Tyler to Put Coach Leven Barker One Win Away from 400
LONGVIEW -- Pine Tree pushed coach Leven Barker to the brink of 400 career wins Tuesday night with Emily Shelton's barrage of assists, Sky Holmes' serving, and a group of hitters that didn't relent.
Pine Tree, ranked eighth in the latest Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 4A poll, started slow, but recovered to sweep John Tyler 28-26, 25-18, 25-19 at the Pirate Center behind Shelton's 42 assists.
"She's the one that runs everything we do. I don't know if there's a better setter at saving a ball that's tight on the net as Emily does," said Barker, who enters Friday's 4:30 p.m. match at Lindale with 399 career wins. "Tonight she was phenomenal setting the ball."
Five Lady Pirate hitters had at least five kills, including Dee Patterson, who had a match-high 15 kills and two blocks. Mackenzie Richardson added 11 kills and one ace, while Sky Holmes had seven kills, two blocks, and four aces. Devin Assenheimer and McKaylla Baylor had five kills apiece. Kennedy Sampson's 17 digs were a match-high, and Darby Davis and Angel Jordan added eight and seven, respectively, for Pine Tree (18-5).
John Tyler led 8-5 in Game 1 and erased a 23-20 deficit to take a 26-25 lead, but Pine Tree recovered with a Richardson kill, a Shelton block, and a Davis ace.
After that, Pine Tree controlled the match, especially once Holmes stepped to the service line with the teams tied 5-5 in Game 2. Holmes served 11 consecutive points, including two aces, as Pine Tree took command.
"I thought we came out a little sluggish. In Game 2 when Sky got back there and served however many times in a row, I think that kind of turned the whole tide of the match," said Barker of his sophomore standout. "For 15 years old, you can't find a better one than what she's doing. We're just now getting her going on the back row some and she does such a good job back there. On that serving, you can't find a better server at 15 than what she does.
"One thing we're going to do is serve aggressively. Sometimes we'll bite the bullet on it, but we want to continue to serve aggressively, and tonight again serving was good for us."
Erica Franklin led John Tyler with eight kills and three blocks. Amicia Williams had six kills and one block, while Quaneshia Johnson dished out 16 assists and made one block. Breanna Choice had four kills and two blocks, and DeDe Rouge added two blocks. Kashanti Flowers had two kills.
Spreading the ball around to several hitters has been a Pine Tree trademark under Barker, who is in his fifth season with the Lady Pirates. Tuesday's match was an exhibition in distribution.
"Our outsides played really well tonight," Barker said. "That's probably the first game all three were on on the same night."
"We were really ready for this game," Richardson said. "We had a good practice yesterday. Emily did great (setting the hitters)."
Pine Tree aims for Barker's 400th win Friday in Lindale, then visits Whitehouse on Tuesday. Pine Tree opens District 14-4A play Sept. 21 at Sulphur Springs.
John Tyler travels to Van on Friday, then hosts Mabank on Tuesday.