Lady Cats pick up wins, confidence in TOC

August 14, 2010
BY Kevin Hageland khageland@acnpapers.com

DUNCANVILLE - If the purpose of a pre-district tournament is to show signs of improvement and build up confidence, then Plano Senior volleyball can consider its trip to the Tournament of Champions a success.

While the Lady Wildcats went just 2-2 at the 35th annual event, Plano's losses were to Class 4A powerhouse Richardson Pearce and four-time defending Class 5A State Champion Amarillo. And those defeats came after Plano had advanced to the third round of the 39-team bracket.

Coach (Jennifer) Cron said "we have never been this far before," said Kelsey Hickle, senior captain. "And knowing that gives us a lot of confidence going forward."

Confidence was gained in the team's first match Friday as Plano bested Clear Lake (27-25, 26-24), which some experts believe to be the second-best team in Houston.

Clear Lake was definitely a big win for us," Cron said. "We had a lack of unforced errors and lots of enthusiasm throughout the match."

The Lady Wildcats kept that enthusiasm intact with a 25-18, 25-14 sweep of tournament-host Duncanville later in the day.

Duncanville was able to stay within a three-point range until midway through the first game when sophomore Madison Morell managed points on back-to-back blocks to give Plano a cushion it wouldn't relinquish.

While the younger generation of Lady Wildcats set the stage, their elders finished things out.

Senior team captain Taylor Story and fellow captain Hickle were responsible for the final two points in Game 1 as the former put down a kill and the latter grooved in an ace to close out the set. Game 2 was primed to be much tighter as the Lady Wildcats opened up a 12-6 lead off aces by Hickle and junior Bethany Werner before the home team surged back to within 14-13.

But as quickly as Duncanville gained momentum, Plano took it back.

The Lady Wildcats scored the next six points, with three coming off Duncanville hitting errors, and went on an 11-1 run to eliminate the Lady Panthers from championship bracket contention.

I think we lost a little bit of that emotion we had after the first game," Cron said. "So it was up to the whole team to pick it back up and that's just what they did."

A deeper run into the bracket meant tougher competition as Pearce, a state qualifier last season, was up next.

Plano trailed by between six and eight points for much of the opening game against the Lady Mustangs before falling, 25-15. Game 2 was much tighter early with multiple ties up to 9-9 before Pearce pulled away.

They have a lefty on the right side," Story said, "and that was hard to defend."

Pearce went on the attack for the remainder of the second game, continually finding open spaces in the middle of the Plano defense. The Lady Mustangs scored three of the last four points with two courtesy of kills from Katie O'Brien and the match-clinching point coming on a tip by Stephanie Holland. That point closed things out at 25-17.

Pearce is a smart team," Hickle said, "and when they attack, they go for the holes."

That completed play for Plano Friday. And after carrying some extra passengers home, the Lady Wildcats returned to the Sandra Meadows Memorial Arena Saturday with an opportunity to still finish fifth in the field.

That opportunity, and a chance to face Plano West in the next round, was dashed by Amarillo though as the Golden Sandies moved forward courtesy of a 25-17, 25-22 triumph. The loss, however, still put Plano a tie for eighth place in the tournament alongside state stalwarts like Lovejoy and Amarillo Tascosa.

"This tournament has such strong competition," Hickle said. "And I think that regardless of winning or losing, that will be good preparation for us going into district."

The Lady Wildcats will experience more of the same next weekend as they head to Allen for the Texas Open in anticipation of the start of District 8-5A play, which begins Sept. 10.








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