Volleyball to face Waxahachie in regional semifinal

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Volleyball to face Waxahachie in regional semifinal

Senior Rachel Langs strikes the ball at the North Forney blocker.

Senior Rachel Langs strikes the ball at the North Forney blocker.

Kelsey Carroll

Senior Rachel Langs strikes the ball at the North Forney blocker.

Kelsey Carroll

Kelsey Carroll

Senior Rachel Langs strikes the ball at the North Forney blocker.

Alexis Russell, Staff Writer

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The volleyball team (39-10, 14-0 in district) will challenge Waxahachie (31-14, 10-4) in the 5A Region two semifinals this Friday at 5 p.m. at Berkner High School in Richardson. If they win this match, they will either play Red Oak (37-5, 12-2) or rival Prosper (42-6, 14-0) the following Saturday at 2 p.m.

With a win on Friday, the team is one step closer to a spot in the state tournament, the end goal according to senior Rachel Langs.

“We need to make sure we go [into the semifinal game] with a lot of confidence, knowing what they have on their side of the net, doing what we can on our side because if we do what we know how to do then we will be in good shape,” Langs said.

However, head coach Jason Nicholson said you can never jump the gun when it comes to the postseason.

“You got to take it one game at a time,” Nicholson said. “We have a track record of getting the opportunity to go [to the state tournament], but we realize we have to do our job and make sure that’s going to happen. Region two is one of the toughest to compete in, as far as making the state tournament. We’re not getting a cake walk.”

With a win over Waxahachie, the team may get a chance at their rival, number one ranked Prosper.

“If we are fortunate enough to get to Saturday, we will play Red Oak or Prosper,” Nicholson said. “We are really going to need some fan support Saturday, especially if we play Prosper. They travel well and their fanbase is huge and rowdy. We sure hope a lot of kids come and support the team and help us get to that point because it’s a big piece.”

Nicholson said the team used the first two rounds of the postseason to work on some things on their side of the net versus some easier opponents.

“[In the game versus The Colony] we were able to do work on some areas that we felt like we needed to improve on as we got deeper into the playoffs,” Nicholson said. “[Less challenging games] give you some opportunities to focus on you versus what you have to do from a scouting standpoint.”

The team recently knocked out a very competitive and aggressive Liberty squad Monday night, in a five-set thriller with set scores of (25-23, 14-25, 24-26, 25-20, and 15-12).

“It’s hard to really put my finger on what the key was [Monday night versus Liberty],” Nicholson said. “Obviously we knew they had some very good volleyball players on their team. Both their outside hitters were extremely high-level, division one type kids. We knew it was going to be a little more challenging than the first two rounds.”

The team started off strong with a first set victory, but then struggled in the second, only scoring fourteen points.

“I don’t know if we just kind of took a deep breath or what,” Nicholson said. “Sometimes in those situations, the pressure early keeps you amped up and ready to go, but once you win a set, you exhale a little bit and we might have exhaled a little too much.”

The struggle continued in set three, making this match by far the most challenging one the girls had faced thus far in the playoffs according to Nicholson.

“In set three, we had a commanding lead, up 22-14,” Nicholson said. “But for whatever reason, we just kind of let them keep hanging around. And then we got put in some pressure situations where we didn’t respond really well and let them sneak that game out. That could’ve really put us down for the count.”

Going into the fourth set, the team was down two sets to one and their season was on the line, which made them more determined to not give up and fight even harder according to junior Avery Elliott.

“It was an eye-opener because we have never really been that close to our season ending before,” Elliott said. “It would’ve been the seniors last game. So we all wanted to fight our hardest so that we could have at least one more game together. We didn’t want to go out on that note and have to say goodbye to each other.”

The team came out with the win, guaranteeing their ticket to the semifinal game versus Waxahachie.

“I think the girls have learned a little bit from Monday night,” Nicholson said. “Liberty was a team who had some talent, and they came at us and they weren’t scared. I think that [win] is important for our girls going forward. Hopefully, we can use that to gain some momentum and have some confidence in what we’re doing.”