Two final regular-season losses made things a bit dicey for playoff-bound Colleyville Heritage last month.
The Panthers were handed a final district loss from Euless Trinity and a five-set nondistrict loss to Lucas Lovejoy before the bi-district round.
But Heritage (41-5) has shaken that off to find itself in the regional tournament, and two wins from a trip to the state tournament.
"The mental toughness has improved drastically," coach Jamie deTurck said. "We got a bit of a wake-up call at the end of the season, but we've never come back from a first-set loss and been on the winning end this season; we did that Monday night."
It was a five-set regional quarterfinal victory over Flower Mound that vaulted Heritage to the regional semifinals.
Standing in the way of Heritage's trip to state is Southlake Carroll. The schools, separated by about 5 miles as the crow flies, will be meeting for the second time this season. Carroll beat Heritage in straight sets in August.
"We learned so much from that, though," deTurck said. "We are much more balanced team; we're not one-dimensional. It's not a question of if we can anymore; it's a question of will we?"
Kimmy Gardiner leads the team in kills with 522, but five other players have more than 100 this season, a sharp increase from midseason.
Aledo punches away
Aledo setter Mallory Powell took a few minutes to ponder how far her team has come after Tuesday's regional quarterfinal victory over Trophy Club Nelson. The Bearcats (38-5) meet Amarillo in Friday's semifinal of the Region I tournament at Abilene Christian.
"We've been focused all year," Powell said. "We've needed to improve on many things, but it's been our defense that has probably been the best change."
Against Nelson's big hitter Haley Tippett, middle blockers Briana Sharratt and Sara Smith each had three blocks and crucial stuffs against Tippett that kept her from getting on a roll.
Aledo has never made it out of the regional tournament in Class 4A.
Atop TAPPS 4A
Grace Prep won the TAPPS Class 4A title Saturday with a 25-16, 25-12, 23-25, 25-17 victory over Victoria St. Joseph in San Antonio. It was Grace Prep's first state title in eight trips to the final four.
After an aggressive opening, hitters Taylor Wright and Brooke Manley rallied the Lions (38-6) in the final set.
"In the semis we played really well and it was one of those game where we were firing in all phases," coach Sandy Kelm said. "So they kind of tightened up a bit in the set 3 loss."
Grace Prep, which finished the year 38-6, dispatched Carrollton Prince of Peace to reach the finals.
"We started to do a lot of things right and in the tournament we served really well and played some great defense," Kelm said. "It helped that we were able to stay away from sickness and injuries when we didn't have the depth to deal with that."
Wright had 678 kills this season and Manley had 579.
We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Comments deemed inappropriate will be removed and repeated abusers will be banned. NOTE: If you log in using your Twitter account, your comments will be signed using the name on your Twitter profile, NOT your Twitter user name. Read our full comment policy.