HORN VOLLEYBALL MENA DE CASTILLO AND CHARLIZE WILLIAMS

Horn’s Mena De Castillo (No. 16) and Charlize Williams go up for a block during a match earlier this season. The Jaguars took care of business on Tuesday with a three-game sweep of North Dallas.

Horn understands its toughest challenges are in front of them with the start of the 11-6A season getting going on Friday.

The last thing the Jaguars wanted to do was to lose some steam heading into their opener against defending district champion Rockwall-Heath.

Horn took care of business on Tuesday and they did so in dominating fashion as they rolled to a 25-8, 25-17, 25-6 sweep of North Dallas.

The Jaguars were dominant for much of the night. There was a lull in Game 2, when the Bulldogs hung around, but Horn was able to keep them at arm’s length.

“We could have focused a little more on serves, we missed seven in that second game, but we came back in the third game to finish it off, so that was nice,” Horn head coach Kris Thornton said. “They remembered they were going into district on Friday, so I think they refocused and that was good to see.”

While the Jaguars did endure some serving woes in the second set, they were also on from behind the line for a majority of the night. Horn registered 15 aces, including seven from Arianna Tubbs and three each from Makaila Harris and Ryann Henderson.

The Jaguars set the tone from the start, taking advantage of North Dallas errors to open a quick lead and then Henderson served three straight aces to help stake them to a 7-2 lead.

Horn refused to allow the Bulldogs any sustained runs in the opening game and two kills from Aijha Sampsell and another from Ashanti Sampsell helped them open a 20-6 lead. Charlize Williams then delivered a pair of blocks and Harris had two of her team-high 10 kills to close out the 25-8 win.

North Dallas was able to take advantage of some Horn miscues in Game 2 to hang around for a while and they were within 13-9 before the Jaguars started to reassert control.

Harris had three kills, Ashanti Sampsell provided a big block and Williams made two big plays at the net as they pulled away for a 25-17 victory.

The third game followed a similar pattern early on and was tied at 4-4, but that changed in a hurry.

Leading by one, Tubbs stepped behind the service line and delivered 15 straight points. The run included four aces and two kills each from Harris and Ashanti Sampsell as a tight game quickly became a 20-4 lead.

It was academic from that point, as Harris had a pair of aces and Aijha Sampsell and Ashanti Sampsell added points to close out the 25-6 win and the sweep.

Horn has been in a transition in its first season under Thornton, but they have adapted to the changes and it has shown when they are on their game, as they were for large parts of Tuesday evening.

“They’ve responded really well. My main focus was passing and defense. Making sure on defense they know where to go to the right spots and from there, playing hard and I think that has shown,” Thornton said. “Our passing is a lot more focused, defensively we’re better, serve/receive we are better so it has helped with setting, passing, hitting to allow us to be more successful.”

Horn has endured some highs and lows in terms of final results against some tough competition thus far. They battled tough but came up short in losses to state-ranked Sachse and Carthage, but they also rallied to pull out a five-game victory over a Royse City team that is ranked No. 20 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 5A state poll.

“We’ve been in some tough games in some hostile environments and that is going to help us,” Thornton said. “Some of the games we have been in have allowed them to learn what to do with the ball in certain situations and how to finish off games.”

Horn now turns its attention to the 11-6A slate and it does not get any tougher than drawing defending district champion Rockwall-Heath in the opener.

That will provide a good measuring stick for the Jaguars going forward, but they are feeling confident about their chances, not just this Friday, but for the rest of the season.

“I am feeling really good about us. I think some people are sleeping on us because we are so young and we did lose a lot of key players from the last few seasons,” Thornton said. “I think we are all coming in on a level playing field. I feel like we are bringing our game together at the right time and putting the pieces together, so I see us doing very well going forward and we’re excited about it.”

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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