Six different Ladycats sent down at least four kills as the balanced offensive attack led state-ranked No. 10 Aledo to a convincing 25-13, 25-17, 25-21 victory over the Birdville Lady Hawks Friday night in a Class 5A area championship volleyball match at Mansfield Summit High School.
The Ladycats will advance to the regional quarterfinals and face Grapevine. The regional quarterfinals match will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Saginaw High School. The winner will advance to the regional tournament in Abilene.
Sophomore outside hitter Evelyn Torres and junior outside hitter Hannah Jones each sent down seven kills to lead the Ladycats, with senior middle Sarah Haeussler and senior outside hitter Sydney Casey each adding five. Sophomores Alex Grooms and Daleigh Ellison each finished with four kills.
Haeussler also finished with a match-high five blocks.
“I am pleased with how we adjusted to their defense,” Ladycats head coach Claire Gay said. “Our goal was to spread the balls to all of our hitters, and our setters (Maggie Wackerhagen, Sarah Morehead) did a good job of that. Birdville was digging a lot of balls, so we had to be balanced offensively.
“Our behind-the-block defense and serve receive were huge for us. We ran down a lot of crazy balls that they threw over, but we knew that was coming, so it was something we had worked on. It is nice to win a second-round match, but that is what Aledo volleyball is all about.”
Aledo’s game plan of spreading the ball to different hitters worked to perfection in the opening set. Casey, Jones, Grooms and Ellison each recorded a pair of kills, with Haeussler frustrating the Lady Hawks with two blocks.
After a kill each by Grooms and Casey, Aledo led 18-10. Three consecutive returns errors then plagued Birdville, and later a kill each by Grooms and Ellison along with another Lady Hawks’ return error brought the opener to game point with the Ladycats in front, 24-13.
On the ensuing rally, a Birdville return sailed wide as the Ladycats took the opener.
In game two, six different Ladycats recorded kills. Aledo led 12-8 after a pair of kills from Casey, but the scrappy Lady Hawks dug in and cut the lead to 12-11. The Ladycats led 15-13 before a kill each from Torres and Haeussler combined with three Birdville return errors extended the Ladycats’ lead to 20-13.
Birdville followed by outscoring Aledo 4-2 to cut the lead to 23-16. But on the next rally, a Birdville service error brought the set to game point. Two rallies later, Wackerhagen set up Grooms for a kill from the right side that resulted in a 25-17 win that gave Aledo a 2-0 lead in games.
Birdville did not back down, and the Lady Hawks jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in game three. Aledo tied the game at 5-5, 6-6 and 11-11 before taking a 12-11 lead after a block in the middle by Haeussler.
Birdville extended its advantage to 16-14 before Aledo went on a 3-0 run – courtesy of a Birdville net violation, a block by Ellison and a Lady Hawks’ return error – for a 17-16 cushion. Game three was tied at 18-18 and 19-19, but a service and return error by the Lady Hawks and a block from Torres increased the AHS advantage to 22-19.
The teams split the next four points, with Aledo’s points coming off kills from Torres, the second to bring game three to match point. On the next rally, Birdville sent a return into the net for Aledo’s match-winning point as the Ladycats return to the regional quarterfinals.