There’s only one thing that makes a long road trip tolerable: a big road win. And that’s something Alexis Wright and the Martin volleyball team specialized in during the 2013 playoffs.
The Lady Warriors advanced to last weekend’s regional tournament in Glen Rose, falling to Colleyville Heritage in three games in the regional semifinals. But in reaching the fourth round of the ultra-competitive 5A Region I bracket, Martin made it farther than any other school in Arlington and District 3-5A. Arlington High, which swept Martin in the regular season to capture the District 3-5A crown, lost to Southlake Carroll in round three. Carroll defeated Heritage to advance to this weekend’s state tournament.
“We just realized that we have potential and we needed to get focused,” said Wright, a senior outside hitter, prior to Martin’s match against Heritage. “People are seeing the reality that we can do this if we play as a team.”
During its playoff run, Martin made the long road trip to Childress and outlasted Amarillo Tascosa in five games in the area round. That earned the Lady Warriors a third round match-up on Nov. 12 against El Paso Coronado in the west Texas town of Lamesa.
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Martin, which made a five-plus-hour bus ride to play Coronado, won the first two games of the regional contest before dropping the third. The Lady Warriors refocused and took care of business in the fourth game to take the match, three games to one.
“We just kind of relaxed a little and El Paso took advantage of it as any team would,” Martin coach Tracy Perez-Petersen said before the regional tournament. “In my heart, I felt we were going to win. It’s just we should have gotten done in three, but the point is we’re here.”
Wright said the Lady Warriors came out on top against Coronado by serving well and by getting a strong performance from its blockers.
“We knew we shouldn’t have lost the third game so we wanted to go in there [in game four] and go, ‘We’re here to win. This is it.’”
Despite the stresses that come from pressure-packed playoff matches, Wright preferred the high intensity of the postseason to any regular-season game. “It’s so fun,” she said. “It’s my favorite part of the season.”
Heading into the regional tournament, Martin was on a roll, having won nine out of 10 matches. Perez-Petersen said the Lady Warriors, who had only three seniors, got better as the season went along by improving as passers and playing as a cohesive unit.
“I feel like they’re finally starting to buy into what they can do and the team is finally starting to be more unified,” the coach said after Martin’s victory against Coronado.
It took the Lady Warriors awhile to start to reach their potential, but they peaked at the right time, Perez-Petersen said. “They’re fun,” she said. “But some days it can be challenging. When you have a talented team, that sometimes comes along with it.”
Wright, who is committed to the University of North Texas, and fellow senior Hannah Nicholas played in the regional tournament as sophomores. But this run to the fourth round was more special than the last one, Wright said.
“We were texting each other in group text and we’re just realizing it’s almost the end,” Wright said. “We want to finish in state.”
A deep playoff run was a special way for the senior leaders to end their Martin volleyball careers, Perez-Petersen said. “They’ve experienced it before, but it’s through different eyes being a senior,” she said.