For the second consecutive year, the Aledo Ladycats have reached the regional volleyball final.
Leading from start to finish in game five, the Ladycats wore down the defending state champion and the No. 6-ranked Amarillo Sandies to capture a 15-8 victory which advances Aledo to Saturday’s regional final.
The No. 9 Ladycats will face No. 4 Colleyville Heritage at 11 a.m. Saturday in the regional final at Kimbrell Arena on the campus of McMurry University in Abilene. The winner will advance to the Class 5A state tournament in Garland.
It was a seesaw match.
Aledo won the opening game of the best-of-5 match, 25-22, with senior middle hitter Sarah Haeussler pacing Aledo with four blocks. But the Sandies came back to square the match with a 25-23 win in game two.
The Ladycats, paced by five kills from Hannah Jones and a pair of blocks by Daleigh Ellison, ran away with game three, 25-15, to take a 2-1 lead in games. In game four, facing a 24-22 deficit, Amarillo tied the score at 24, and the game was tied at 26 after Aledo hitter Evelyn Torres sent down a kill. (Volleyball games must be won by two points).
However, Amarillo captured the next two points to tie the match at two games apiece.
Aledo jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the match-deciding fifth game as Sydney Casey recorded a kill, Ellison registered a block and Casey fired an ace. Amarillo continued to have trouble with double-hit violations, committing two in the run to go along with a pair of return errors.
Another Amarillo double-hit violation combined with two kills from Jones stretched the Ladycats’ lead to 10-5.
The Sandies cut the lead to 12-8 before Aledo libero Allegra Rivas set up Ellison for a kill from the middle that increased the Ladycats’ advantage to 13-8. On the next rally, Amarillo committed a return error to bring game five to match point with the Ladycats ahead, 14-8.
The Ladycats punched their ticket to the regional final on the next rally as a spike by Casey forced a Sandies return error as Aledo wrapped up game five, 15-8, to advance to the regional final.
Ladycats head coach Claire Gay in her first year at Aledo – said she told her team to relax after Amarillo knotted the match after game four.
“I told them to take a breath and relax,” Gay said. “We got tense in game four and made too many errors. By relaxing it let our girls let the flow of the game go. (In game five) we played exceptional defense behind the block, our right-side hitters did well – that’s where I thought we could score points – and Sydney made a great play on the last rally of the match.”
It was the second playoff match in a row for Aledo that came down to a fifth game.
“I think winning back-to-back matches in five games will give our girls confidence,” Gay said. “We are playing a Colleyville Heritage team we beat early in the season, and so we know they are hungry to beat us. But we are hungry as well – a trip to state is on the line. We will be ready to play (on Saturday).”
Haeussler recorded a match-high seven blocks to go long with seven kills. Jones led the Ladycats with 11 kills, with Torres adding nine and Ellison eight.