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Midlothian Heritage junior Brooklyn Wilhoite (4) celebrates with teammates following a point in Tuesday's home victory against Midlothian. (Travis M. Smith/ECS)

Midlothian Heritage rallies back for first-ever victory against crosstown rival Midlothian

By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports

MIDLOTHIAN — A raucous student section and one senior’s signature game helped reignite the Midlothian Heritage Jaguars and fuel a five-set, come-from-behind victory against crosstown rival Midlothian. 

The Jaguars won the first, fourth and fifth sets at home Tuesday against the neighboring Lady Panthers in the District 8-5A opener, 25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 26-24, 15-7. 

The obvious would suggest the victory was obviously contested. And it was.

Midlothian (12-7, 0-1 in 8-5A) seemed to touch every free, tip, dump or kill in the first four sets. It ultimately came down to the Jaguars’ strongside attack led by senior Grace Sweeney (22 kills, 13 digs) and junior Brooklyn Wilhoite (12 kills). Addison Howie and Payton Schoonover provided 25 and 13 assists from the setter position, respectively. 

Sweeney entered the match with 154 kills through 31 sets played with an insane 0.241 hitting percentage. She tallied 407 total kills through 95 sets played out of 140 in 2022. She was second only to Emilee Casey (436 kills in 140 sets) and ahead of sophomore Brooklyn Whilhoite (140, 3rd). 

The Jaguar win came 364 days after the first-ever matchup between the two programs or two high schools in any UIL capacity.

Midlothian’s attack was led by sophomore Kameron Rector (15 kills), junior McKenzie Berg (13) and senior Angelina Masojc (12). Lillian Garay (22 assists) and freshman Sheridan Riles (18 assists) played well for the Lady Panthers in the setter position.

THE CROSSTOWN SHOWDOWN

The first component to remember for historical reference is that Midlothian Heritage opened its doors in 2014. Varsity competition began at the 4A level in 2016, allowing for Midlothian High to drop from Class 6A to 5A — where both programs currently compete.

Midlothian swept the inaugural meeting in front of a standing-room-only crowd inside the MHS Arena, 25-11, 25-13, 25-18, on Aug. 23, 2022. 

The Jaguars accounted for 19 total kills in the loss. Sweeney was held out due to injury. 

The Lady Panthers cruised in the second district match, too, 25-21, 23-25, 25-14, 25-16. 

Midlothian combined for 104 kills to the 54 of Heritage in those two victories. Heritage, meanwhile, used 11 kills from Sweeney and a combined 20 more from since graduated-seniors Allie Schmidt and Emilee Casey to pick up its first-ever set win against the Lady Panthers in that four-set loss on Sept. 27, 2022. 

Fast-forward to 10 days ago — Midlothian yet again defeated Heritage. 

Midlothian junior McKenzie Berg (18) and senior Angelina Masojc (11) are the two most-experienced hitters from the 2022 campaign. Masojc recorded 166 kills and Berg added 162 more on the season. 

The tandem combined for 12 kills in the win, while sophomore Kameron Rector (13) and junior Avery Shanahan (7) led the way. 

This time, though, the Jaguars won the opening set — only to fall in three sets during Mansfield Methodist Medical Center Invitational, 25-22, 18-25, 23-25. 

Sweeney (16) and Wilhoite (10) combined for 26 kills. It marked the first time for the Jaguars to keep pace with the Lady Panthers in that statistical department (34-31 Midlothian). 

HOW TUESDAY HAPPENED

Heritage ran out to an early 3-1 lead but quickly saw the height of Midlothian come into play. The Lady Panthers knotted the match at 4-all and used a 6-1 run to force a Heritage timeout. Sweeney capped the run with a kill from the outside, one of three for her in the opening set.

The Midlothian lead ballooned to seven points, 17-10, before Heritage regained its composure.

And regain composure they did.

Sweeney should largely be credited as the one who helped flip the momentum, burying kills for the Jaguars’ 13th and 16th points against a stout Lady Panther block — courtesy of two Addison Howie assists.

Sprinkle in a few hitting or service errors for each side and Heritage was able to knot the match at 18, 19 and 20. The Jaguars took their first lead (21-20) since the early going on a Midlothian error.

The Jaguars ultimately closed the opening set on a 15-4 run. Brooklyn Wilhoite fired home the final two points from the outside for the 25-21 first-set win.

The second set remained back and forth through a 15-all tie. Fueled by three Berg kills, the Lady Panthers closed the set on a 10-5 run. Berg fired home the final two points for 2-of-her-13 kills on the evening.

Set three saw Heritage jump out to a quick 2-point lead, 7-5, behind three Sweeney kills.

The Lady Panther backline Claire Pustejovsky (21 digs), Rector (16 digs), freshman Sheridan Riles (14 digs) and Berg (10) continued to scramble and keep balls in play. Their stellar play eventually allowed the Midlothian attack to click and build a 21-15 lead via an 8-3 run.

The Lady Panthers took set two for a 2-1 lead, 25-19. Heritage won sets four and five to secure the program’s first-ever victory over the Jaguars’ cross-town rival, 26-24, 15-7.

PHOTO GALLERY

All photos by Travis M. Smith/Ellis County Sports

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

tsmith@elliscosports.com

About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith is the owner and content director of Ellis County Sports and has over a decade of award-winning sports coverage. He most recently served as the digital sports director for KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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