With the arrival of District 26-6A competition imminent, the Lady Unicorns had one final tuneup in store Tuesday night at home.

And it was against anything but a run-of-the-mill opponent.

Gregory-Portland — the No. 7-ranked team in Class 5A — made the trip to town and secured a 3-1 win by scores of 25-19, 25-17, 21-25 and 25-14 against New Braunfels (20-13). Head coach Heather Sledge’s squad had its moments, but the visiting Ladycats (28-4) were steady throughout the match.

“I felt like at times we were really good and other times we were chaotic and all over the place,” Sledge said. “We need to find that consistency and not be shaken and rattled.”

Despite the setback, Sledge said she feels her team has improved immensely since it first took the court back on Aug. 6. In fact, prior to Tuesday’s loss, the Lady Unicorns had won 10 of their last 12 contests.

“I think in the last few weeks we’ve really gelled,” Sledge said. “We’ve come a long way since the beginning and I think we’re finding that rhythm. We’re going to continue to work on things we need to work on and get ready for district.”

The opening portion of Tuesday’s match with Gregory-Portland saw Madison Glassco slam two kills to give New Braunfels a quick lead. The Lady Unicorns continued to maintain a slim edge behind strong plays from Edie Welch, Abby Lawson and Cypress Guenther, but the Ladycats made their move late in the set.

Middle blocker Chloe Rodriguez used a series of blocks and kills to give Gregory-Portland a 22-18 advantage, and libero Colby Gonzalez later fired back-to-back aces to seal a 25-19 win.

The Ladycats’ momentum carried over into game two, as they built a solid advantage and cruised to a 25-17 triumph as a result.

However, the Lady Unicorns refused to be swept on their home floor.

Facing a 17-15 deficit and the possibility of a 3-0 loss, Welch and Chloe Ullrich helped knot the score at 18-all before New Braunfels capped the set with a 7-2 run.

The surge included powerful hits by Rian Millership and Lawson in addition to an ace from Lena Baumann and a game-clinching block by Glassco.

Unfortunately, New Braunfels’ win only delayed the inevitable. Gregory-Portland pulled away for a 25-14 victory in game four to bring the match to a close.

Glassco and Morgan Baese each had 10 kills in the loss, while Welch posted 29 digs and Baumann dished out 22 assists. Welch also notched three aces, while Kendall Jeffers served up a pair of aces.

The Lady Unicorns will now prepare to host crosstown rival Canyon Friday night at 6 p.m. in the 26-6A opener for both teams. Sledge said it’s the start of an incredibly difficult journey.

“Anybody can win and anybody can beat anybody on any night,” Sledge said of the league. “We’re in a very tough district so we’ve got to be ready to go.”

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