West seeks breakthrough in regional tourney
WEST Vs. CEDAR PARK
REGION IV-4A SEMIFINAL
6 p.m. start, Friday at Northside ISD's Paul Taylor Fieldhouse in San Antonio.
It would be inaccurate to consider Friday's regional semifinal contest a revenge match. But, best believe, the Victoria West volleyball team remembers who eliminated them from the playoffs last year.
Sandy Longoria and her players choose to forget the specifics of last year's four-set loss to Cedar Park. What's important to this year's West team is playing its best volleyball at the right time of year as it prepares to play the Timberwolves again Friday night in San Antonio.
"It's exciting because we get to come back and show we are ready," said Michelle Rendon, a junior libero who has more than 400 digs this year. "We're going to challenge them and show them that we want it more."
Throughout the playoffs, Rendon and the rest of Warriors back row have been able to get passes to the setter and facilitate the offense. West's defense was so strong Tuesday night against Edcouch-Elsa that Lady Jackets head coach Ofelia Griffith noted it was a critical factor in the match.
Part of that may be the relationship Rendon has with freshman defensive specialist Shelby Spradley. The two have played club ball together for years, and that has started to benefit the Warriors.
"We've been playing together a long time," Rendon said. "It helps to know where each other are on the court and we trust each other at all times."
That trust will be put to the test against the Timberwolves. Longoria said Cedar Park has a size advantage, specifically in the front row. The head coach said her team will have to be patient during rallies and find ways to work around their opponent's height when attacking.
"It helps to be familiar with what's coming," Longoria said. "It takes some of the anxiety out of it for those who haven't played there or that caliber of team."
Spradley, though just 15, is ready for the challenge. She said the team's defense has improved each round of the playoffs, which has been necessary because the opponents, atmospheres and stakes continue to rise.
"It's going to get tougher and tougher each round. We need to be prepared for everything," Spradley said. "Whenever the crowd is like that we feed off their energy and it helps us."
NEXT MATCH: Friday, 1 p.m. vs. Schulenburg at Blossom Athletic Center, San Antonio
When she took the job, Edna volleyball coach Rachel Collins secretly had ambitions of this team qualifying for the regional tournament. Now that the Cowgirls have qualified for the first time in 21 years, their goals have expanded.
Collins said her team's back row, led by junior libero Drew Ganem, was a reason the Cowgirls were able to eliminate Kingsville Academy in three games Tuesday night. Considering they will play a Schulenburg team with the versatile Shannon Mikesky at setter, Collins said the Cowgirls defense has to be on its game again.
"They have the drive and the fire," Collins said after watching her team during Wednesday's practice. "They were good before, and they had the drive before, but it's a new team and a new drive and a new fire."
NEXT MATCH: Friday, 1 p.m. vs. Edna at Blossom Athletic Center, San Antonio
Through the grapevine, Schulenburg volleyball coach Donald Zapalac has heard about Edna outside hitter Madison Kucera, but that is about the extent of his knowledge about the Cowgirls.
Zapalac said serving and passing will be critical for the Lady Horns on Friday. "If we serve well and pass the ball like we are capable of and with Shannon (Mikesky) setting the ball it makes our offense so diverse."
Yes, Mikesky, has 1,031 assists this year. But that is not possible without the steady progression of fellow underclassmen Bay Guentert and Kelsie Fietsam. Guentert, a freshman, and Fietsam, a sophomore, combined for 18 kills, nine blocks and 26 digs in a five-set win over East Bernard Tuesday night.
NEXT MATCH: Friday, 5 p.m. vs. Burton, Brenham High School
Yorktown advances to the regional tournament for the third time in five years. Their reward: facing a streaking Burton team that also has plenty of regional tournament experience.
Yorktown volleyball coach Deirdre Alexander said the Lady Panthers are an athletic team on film. Burton is led by senior middle blocker Rachel Warner, who had 18 kills in a bi-district victory over Ganado and is the Lady Panthers top attacker. Alexander said the Kitty Kats goal is to win as many points as possible when Warner is in the back row. Nevertheless, Alexander said their goal is to play their game. It's a formula that has worked for 21 straight matches.
"That's what we've talked about all the while," Alexander said. "We don't think that when we play well there are too many teams that can beat us."