Familiar ground, ‘unknown’ foe

Volleyball to face Richmond George Ranch in state semis; Dripping Springs vs. Randall in other matchup


Sydney Wong

Senior Avery Arellano approaches the net to hit the ball against Wakeland in the regional finals last Saturday. The Leopards won the game 3-0 to advance to the state tournament.

Kevin Davis, Sports Editor

Two games remain in the Texas high school state volleyball playoffs, and the Leopards find themselves in an extremely familiar situation. The Richmond George Ranch Longhorns (41-7) are the only team left in the way of the Leopards to make their seventh appearance in a state title game.

The two teams meet in the 5A semi-finals on Friday, Nov. 20 at 12 p.m. at the Curtis Culwell Center.

“George Ranch is kind of an unknown,” head volleyball coach Jason Nicholson said. “I think everyone knows who Lovejoy is, but last year we somewhat snuck under the radar all season long, because it wasn’t supposed to be our year. George Ranch is kind of that similar team. Not a lot of people know who they are. They haven’t played a high visibility schedule, but they’re a good team.”

The Longhorns have five three-year varsity seniors who have been key contributors in the very successful season for the Longhorns. Senior outside hitter Allyson Dernehl and junior outside hitter Valerie Valerian will be the main tasks at hand for the Leopards in the semi-final round. Valerian leads the Longhorns in kills on the season with 589 while Dernehl sits at second in kills with 437.

They’ve got a couple outside hitters that we are going to have to figure out how to stop just like Frisco Wakeland,” Nicholson said. “Hopefully we have our A-game with us. I think we will be okay if we play our style of volleyball. The experience of being here before obviously helps us too.”

If the Leopards were to advance to the championship round, a rematch of last year is likely to occur. However, Nicholson is emphasizing to the team that it is important to keep focus on the task at hand.

“Everyone is predicting the rematch of Dripping Springs,” Nicholson said. “Both of us have got tough semi-final opponents. We’re both obviously not going to try to look forward to each other, but it’s especially hard for them because this is their third straight trip there and they haven’t won one yet.”

The other team the Leopards would possibly see in the finals is the Randall Raiders (23-6).

“I’m sure Dripping Springs has revenge on their mind, but I’m sure their coach is preaching to them ‘we can’t look past Randall’, and we are the same,” Nicholson said. “We can’t look past George Ranch thinking about how we are going to beat Dripping Springs.”

In the regional finals, the Leopards defeated the Frisco Wakeland Wolverines in three sets (25-20, 25-22, 25-13).

“I think in the third set they just started to feel a little defeated, and our girls really pounce on that which I am excited about,” Nicholson said. “I’m hoping we have that same type of mentality going into this weekend.”

Senior setter Jordan Fate said the team struggled some in the second set against Wakeland.

“I think we kind of let our foot off the gas, which has kind of been our problem all year,” Fate said. “When we were up 9-0 in the second set, we just started to slowly let them back in, because we were getting comfortable with our lead which I know that we are not going to be able to do when we get to the state tournament.”

Fate said the team is focusing on defending the outsides and the service game against George Ranch.

“We are just working a lot on serve receive and serving, because I think that will really win us the semi game and also it would really win us the championship game if we got there,” Fate said.