Category: Volleyball

GAME REPORT: Abilene High volleyball downs El Paso High to reach Region I-5A tournament

MIDLAND — The Abilene High volleyball team extended its best season in more than a decade into the Region I-5A tournament Tuesday with a 25-20, 16-25, 25-17, 25-21 win over El Paso High in a region quarterfinal match at the McGraw Event Center.

The Lady Eagles, who are making their first playoff appearance since 2015, improved to 19-20 with the victory, which earned AHS its first region tournament trip since 2007.

Coach Caroline Cleveland’s team will now play North Richland Hills Birdville in the I-5A semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lubbock Coronado for a chance to play the winner between Lubbock Cooper and Colleyville Heritage in the region title match on Saturday.

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FEATURE: Run to third round has reenergized Abilene High volleyball program back on the map

Sitting at 7-14 on Aug. 30 and in the midst of a five-match losing streak, the Abilene High volleyball team was likely an unpopular pick to be the last of Abilene’s three large high schools standing come playoff time.

But a lot can change in more than two month’s time, particularly when dealing with a hungry young squad.

All the Lady Eagles have done since then is win 11 of their last 17 matches, including playoff victories over Amarillo Tascosa (25-27, 25-15, 25-22, 25-23) and El Paso Hanks (25-22, 20-25, 25-15, 12-25, 15-6) to return to the region quarterfinals for the first time since 2007 — when current head coach Caroline Cleveland just so happened to be leading AHS on the court as a senior.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Wylie safety Wright takes top honors with three fourth-quarter picks

If it’s true that big-time players make big-time plays in big moments, few had a stronger claim to that “big-time” title this past week than Wylie sophomore Hayden Wright.

The Bulldogs free safety not only came through with three interceptions in his team’s 20-10 District 2-5A Division I title-clinching win over crosstown rival Cooper, he recorded all three picks in the fourth quarter as Wylie was trying to hold off a late Cougar rally.

For that effort, which saw him snatch his fourth, fifth and sixth interceptions of the season, the young playmaker has been named the Big Country Preps Player of the Week for the week ending Nov. 5.

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GAME STORY: Honeybees open playoffs with sweep of Estacado

As one of the top teams in Region I-4A, the Stephenville Honeybees hoped that Tuesday’s bi-district playoff matchup with Lubbock Estacado would be over fairly quickly.

The District 6-4A champions ensured that with a 25-11, 25-6, 25-11 sweep of the Lady Matadors at Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum, ending Estacado’s return to the postseason after a 25-year drought in an emphatic way.

Coach Shay Douglas was proud of the concentration her team showed in the win.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Brock junior takes the award with one big half of play

Every now and then, two quarters of playing time is enough to have a enormous impact. That was the case several times last week in a Friday night filled with lopsided finals throughout the area.

Topping that list: Our BCP Player of the Week, junior running back Brett Tutter, who helped lead Brock to a 77-27 win over Ponder. 

Tutter got only 16 carries in two quarters of play, but finished with an eye-popping 318 yards and five touchdowns as Brock (5-4, 4-0 District 4-3A DI) earned its fifth straight win after an 0-4 start. 

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GAME STORY: Hawley sweeps Coleman to claim share of District 6-2A title

Coming off a big five-set win over Albany on Saturday that opened the door for a co-championship in District 6-2A, the Hawley Lady Cats barreled through that door on Tuesday, sweeping Coleman 25-19, 25-14, 25-16 on Senior Night to share the league title with the Lady Lions.

On a night that began by honoring their only two seniors, Kylie Chesser and Mikayla Neble, the Lady Cats took care of the visiting Bluekatts without too much trouble, claiming their sixth consecutive win to wrap up the regular season at 23-16 overall and 7-1 in district play.

Coach Amy Eckhoff’s squad, which will flip for seeding with Albany, will now enter the Class 2A playoffs as either No. 1 or 2 seed out of District 6-2A and take on either the third- or fourth-place team out of District 5 — a four-team league comprised of Water Valley, Sonora, Miles and Junction.

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GAME STORY: Wylie stuns Lubbock Cooper with Senior Night sweep

The Wylie volleyball team entered Tuesday’s District 4-5A volleyball match against Lubbock Cooper with nothing tangible on the line.

The Lady Bulldogs were already locked into the league’s No. 2 playoff seed and a date with Amarillo Caprock in next week’s bi-district round when they took the floor for their Senior Night match against the district champions.

Making matters tougher, the Lady Pirates had only lost one set over the past seven weeks entering their match at Bulldog Gymnasium.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Zephyr running back brings home Player of the Week honors

With some people projecting Zephr as an underdog in last week’s game with Sidney, very few people were expecting ZHS to provide us with the Big Country Preps Player of the Week.

Nonetheless, here we are.

Zephyr senior running back Jayden Millican takes the spotlight after rushing for 285 yards and six touchdowns in a 68-20 win over over Sidney. But he wasn’t finished there.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High Lady Eagles snap playoff drought with Senior Night sweep

Tuesday was a memorable night for the Abilene High volleyball team.

In addition to honoring seniors Jadyn Hernandez, Alexis Dolton, Ryleigh Lawson and Mia Cairo, who were playing their final match at Eagle Gym, the Lady Eagles snapped a seven-year playoff drought with a 25-19, 25-20, 25-16 win over Lubbock Coronado.

The victory, which improved AHS to 16-19 overall and 7-4 in District 4-5A play, not only guaranteed the Lady Eagles their first postseason berth since 2015, it locked up the No. 3 seed behind second-place Wylie and district leader Lubbock Cooper once combined with Lubbock Monterey’s win over crosstown rival Cooper.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Snyder’s Stewart takes the award after big win over Graham

Snyder quarterback Easton Stewart barely makes a dent when he steps on the scale, standing in at 5-foot-8 and only 140 pounds. But the SHS junior was plenty big enough to lead the Tigers to a 35-21 upset over Graham last week at Tiger Stadium. 

Our BCP Player of the Week connected on 27 of 34 pass attempts for 282 yards and five scores and rushed for an additional 30 to lead the Tigers (3-5, 1-1) to a crucial victory. 

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GAME STORY: Wylie cools off rival Cooper in hard-fought sweep

The Wylie volleyball team downed a surging Cooper squad 25-21, 25-23, 25-22 on Tuesday at Cougar Gym to complete a season sweep of the Lady Cougars and improve to 4-0 this season in matches against crosstown foes.

CHS had won four of its last five matches coming into the rematch with the Lady Bulldogs, including a thrilling five-set win over Abilene High on Friday, but coach Shay Cox’s team cooled off the Lady Coogs, executing down the stretch in all three sets to complete a hard-fought sweep.

The victory put Wylie (21-16 overall, 6-2 in district) in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 playoff seed out of District 4-5A — 1½ matches ahead of third-place AHS (14-19, 5-4) and 2½ matches ahead of fourth-place Cooper (15-18, 4-5) with four league matches remaining.

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GAME STORY: Wall withstands Clyde early, rolls to key District 6-3A sweep

CLYDE — Volleyball is all about gaining, and sustaining, momentum.

With the District 6-3A lead on the line, it was the Wall Lady Hawks who were able to seize momentum early and roll to a 25-19, 25-21, 25-9 win over Clyde on Tuesday night at Bulldog Gym.

Wall scored the first five points of the match, never trailing in the first set, as the Lady Hawks improved to 33-5 overall and 6-0 in district. Including Tuesday’s sweep, the Lady Hawks have won 18 of 19 sets during district play.

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FEATURE: Cooper volleyball squad hitting its stride at just the right time

It’s not an overstatement to say that the Cooper volleyball team’s playoff prospects weren’t very promising three and a half weeks ago. After falling to Wylie on a Saturday on the road, the Lady Cougars were 0-3 and looking up at every other team in District 4-5A. 

Then they lost the next match — a midweek nondistrict matchup with Graham.

And that’s when the asterisk that marks just where Cooper’s season turned around was inserted.

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GAME STORY: Wylie holds off feisty Abilene High squad at home, takes sole possession of second in 4-5A

Hosting Abilene High with sole possession of second place in the District 4-5A standings on the line, the Wylie volleyball team held off a scrappy Lady Eagle effort for a 25-22, 26-28, 25-14, 25-20 victory Tuesday night at Bulldog Gym.

The Lady Bulldogs played most of the night with a lead, holding a double-digit advantage in three of the four games in the contest — a rematch of a Wylie’s 25-14, 25-22, 25-13 win Sept. 9 at Abilene High. But The Lady Eagles made WHS work much harder for Tuesday night’s victory, nearly rallying to force a fifth set.

As it was, the Lady Bulldogs improved to 20-16 on the year and 5-2 in district play, while Abilene High fell to 13-18 overall and 4-3 in league action with five more matches remaining in the regular season.

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GAME STORY: Clyde volleyball spikes De Leon in nondistrict matchup

CLYDE — The Clyde volleyball team picked up a midweek nondistrict match with De Leon to avoid an open date in the middle of district play, and the Lady Bulldogs responded with a resounding three-set win.

Implementing new offensive sets, coach Laura Carr’s squad knocked off the Lady Bearcats 25-20, 25-8, 25-9 on Tuesday nightat Bulldog Gym.

In addition to finding their rhythm in system, the Lady Bulldogs had 17 aces in the three sets, with Chloe Ukle’s five leading the way.

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FEATURE: Through unique experience, Merkel seniors are paving way for Lady Badgers volleyball program

You probably should make a point to remember the seven girls noted in the ensuing paragraph, because what they are accomplishing at Merkel High School this year is virtually unprecedented.

Sydnee Barnes, Jada O’Kelly, Kloe Pursley, Autumn Hammond, Avery Hollaway, Micah Hollaway and Avery Chacon are seniors on the Lady Badgers volleyball team, meaning the 2022 season represents their final time to play the sport in high school.

It is also their first.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Clyde volleyballer takes this week’s accolade

After an 0-1 start in district play with a loss at Wall, the Clyde Lady Bulldogs were facing some pressure last week in tough league matchups against Jim Ned and San Angelo TLCA. 

Clyde responded with a pair of wins and our Big Country Preps Player of the Week, junior setter Abby Carr was at the forefront of that effort. 

Charting 38 assists, 19 kills and four aces, Carr was not only setting up the offense, but when rotating to the front line, she also did a pretty fair job of finishing it. 

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GAME STORY: Wylie earns gritty home sweep over Coronado, pulls into second place in 4-5A standings

The Wylie volleyball team pulled into second place in the District 4-5A standings Tuesday, overtaking Abilene High with a 25-23, 25-23, 25-13 win over Lubbock Coronado at Bulldog Gym.

The Lady Bulldogs, who entered the day one-half match back of the Lady Eagles in the league race, improved to 19-15 overall and 4-1 in league play, while AHS (13-17 overall) fell to 4-2 in 4-5A action with a 25-22, 25-19, 25-20 loss to district leader Lubbock Cooper (27-4, 5-0).

Thanks to Tuesday’s win, which saw Wylie rally in Games 1 and 2 before finally taking control in the third set, the Lady Bulldogs will now travel on Friday to take on Lubbock Cooper with a share of the district lead on the line.

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GAME REPORT: Abilene High closes first half of district play with home loss to Lubbock Cooper

Hosting Lubbock Cooper with the District 4-5A lead on the line, the Abilene High volleyball team fell 25-22, 25-19, 25-20 to the Lady Pirates to close out the first half of league play at 4-2.

The Lady Eagles, who entered Tuesday on a four-match winning streak, will be idle Friday before opening the second half of district action at Wylie next Tuesday. The Lady Bulldogs (19-15, 4-1) overtook AHS for second in the district standings with a home win over Lubbock Coronado on Tuesday, but they’ll travel to Lubbock Cooper on Friday with a share of the league lead on the line.

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GAME STORY: Wall volleyball plays fast, sweeps San Angelo TLCA

WALL — Playing with just two girls on its bench, the Wall volleyball team knew that it would have its hands full against a San Angelo TLCA squad that rolls with a roster of 14 players.

The 16th-ranked Lady Hawks struggled with a faster pace that TLCA brought in the first set before regrouping and rolling to a quick 25-21, 25-12, 25-12 win in 50 minutes Tuesday in a District 6-3A match at Hawk Gym.

Wall’s ability to adjust on the fly and adapt to the pace that the Lady Eagles were pushing was something coach Robynn Jones was pleased to see.

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FEATURE: Versatile Bryant helping Lady Indians to banner season

Photos by Meredith Goodwin

Is versatile Jim Ned senior Kate Bryant better as an outside hitter or as a setter?  

It’s a question that leaves Lady Indians volleyball coach Miranda Garcia stumped upon reflection.  

“Ooohh that’s a tough one. She has always been a great setter, always had great hands, even in middle school,” Garcia said. “Her hitting has really come along since her sophomore year. She wanted to be an outside hitter since middle school, so she’s really been working on hitting.”  

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FEATURE: Abilene High senior Hernandez a force in the middle for young Lady Eagles

At 6-foot-2, Jadyn Hernandez casts an imposing shadow at the net. But the senior middle blocker is far more than a just a big body for the Abilene High volleyball team.

Blessed with excellent athleticism to go with her height, Hernandez is an offensive force as middle hitter, and her presence at the net on defense is one all opponents must account for.

But perhaps just as important as what she does on the court on game days is what she has brought as a leader — a role through which she’s helped a young Lady Eagles squad find its stride in the first half of District 4-5A play.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High stretches win streak to three with home sweep of Lubbock High

The Abilene High volleyball team continued its recent run of quality play Tuesday at Eagle Gym, sweeping Lubbock High 25-20, 25-20, 25-7 to improve to 3-1 in District 4-5A play.

The Lady Eagles, 12-14 overall, had one of their best offensive performances of the season, hitting .310 as a team to stretch their winning streak to three matches since opening league play with a loss to crosstown foe Wylie.

The victory kept AHS within a win of the district lead with two more matches remaining in the first half of district play.

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned gets 14th win in last 15 matches with five-set thriller

TUSCOLA — The Jim Ned volleyball team, which has only lost one match since Aug. 23, has not been afraid to play outside their classification in order to get stronger heading into district play.

Last week, that meant the Lady Indians hit the road and played up three classifications, getting swept by Class 6A Midland Legacy, before playing down two classes on Tuesday night in a classic trap game against Class 1A Veribest — which entered the match at Bill Thornton Arena as the fourth-ranked team in the state.

Through three sets against the Lady Falcons, it looked like the trap was in full effect and the Lady Indians were looking ahead to their district opener against San Angelo Grape Creek. In the fourth set, though, Avery Vinson took over and led the Lady Indians to a thrilling 25-21, 23-25, 23-25, 25-11, 15-12 come-from-behind win as Jim Ned improved to 14-1 in its last 15 matches, having lost only seven sets in that span.

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FEATURE: Clyde off to great start with the help of defensive specialist

Photos by Rachel Laughlin and Tony Brockway 

Clyde’s Chloe Ukle works best under pressure.  

The senior libero thrives when opposing teams send volleyballs hurling her way, sprawling all over the court for digs.   

“What I love about being a libero is the control that I have of the back row,” Ukle said. “Knowing that I am in control of what goes on in the back row pushes me harder.”  

Ukle’s defensive efforts are a key reason the Lady Bulldogs are 20-12 heading into Tuesday’s non-district finale against Glen Rose. Despite facing difficult competition, Ukle leads the Big Country with 5.4 digs per set and has tallied 457 digs for the year.  

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FEATURE: Young Wylie squad working to build consistency as district play ramps up

Last year, the Wylie volleyball team finished the season perched on hallowed ground, setting/spiking/toughing its way to a 32-14 record en route to the Region I-5A quarterfinals. 

For those keeping score at home, that’s three rounds deep in the playoffs — marking the program’s deepest run since making the jump to Class 5A.

While coach Shay Cox appreciated the accomplishment of her very bulldog-ish Lady Bulldogs, she also knew every time she reviewed the list of the 2021 graduating players that replicating that kind of success and sustaining the momentum this season was going to be a tall order.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High downs rival Cooper in four to even district record at 1-1

Playing each other in a district match for the first time since 2013, the Abilene High and Cooper volleyball teams met Tuesday at Cougar Gym, each looking to even their District 4-5A record at 1-1. In the end, it was the Lady Eagles who prevailed, outlasting their crosstown rivals for a hard-fought 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 26-24 victory.

AHS, which opened league play with a loss to Wylie on Friday, found itself down 23-22 in Game 2 and 23-20 in Game 4 against Cooper on Tuesday. But each time, the Lady Eagles rallied to win the set — the first to take a commanding 2-0 lead and the second to clinch the match and avoid a do-or-die fifth set.

The victory improved coach Caroline Cleveland’s team to 10-15 on the year, while Cooper fell to 11-14 overall and 0-2 in district play.

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FEATURE: Versatile Williams’ leadership matching her physical talent

Kamryn Williams is more than just a six-rotation standout for Wall’s volleyball program.  

While she once again leads the No. 8 Lady Hawks in kills (3.7 per set), it’s Williams’ senior leadership and determination that have been just as impressive.  

“For the first time, she’s not necessarily our only go-to player because now anytime, we can go to anyone,” Wall coach Robynn Jones said. “That says a lot about Kamryn.

“She’s helped other players come into their own and gain the confidence they need so we can have a great team, not a good team.”  

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GAME STORY: Wylie volleyball splits pair in final matches before district play

The Wylie volleyball team wrapped up the pre-district portion of its schedule with a home split Tuesday, sweeping Granbury 25-18, 25-19, 29-27 before falling to San Angelo Central 25-14, 24-21, 16-25, 25-16 in the finale of a dual match at Bulldog Gym.

The results send the Lady Bulldogs into Friday’s District 4-5A opener at Abilene High with a 15-13 record.

While her team struggled at times in the nightcap against the Lady Cats, Wylie coach Shay Cox focused on the positives from the two matches, concluding that the Lady Bulldogs showed some necessary growth with league play on the horizon.

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FEATURE: Bruntmyer sisters leading the way for Abilene Christian

Abilene Christian volleyball coach Arnett McClure knows he’s got a good team this year and a big part of that is the play of sisters Halle and Shea Bruntmyer.

The daughters of Hardin-Simmons University president Eric Bruntmyer have become mainstays in McClure’s lineup, with Shea leading the way as the team’s setter and leading server, while Halle is a back-line anchor.

Shea, who is a year older than Halle, has the task of being both a teammate and older sister and has to juggle being able to know when to play each role both on and off the court.

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