Olivia Viscuso and Lamar had already dispensed with their district rivals en route to a 4-6A title, but the playoffs placed rival Arlington in the Lady Vikings’ path to the regional tournament.
Viscuso, the Lady Vikings’ senior middle blocker, had no qualms about facing the Lady Colts one more time, this time in the third round of the 6A playoffs. Lamar defeated Arlington twice in the regular season, sweeping the Lady Colts both times.
“It adds fuel to our fire,” Viscuso said. “We wanted it that much more.”
Lamar wanted it — and got it. The Lady Vikings topped the Lady Colts in four games Nov. 10 at Birdville school district’s Thomas Coliseum to reach regionals for the first time since 2006.
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“We worked so hard and to get past the third round is really great for Lamar,” senior libero Taylor Murata said.
Advancing past Arlington proved a tall task. The Lady Colts, led by imposing sophomore middle blocker Katie Clark, won the second set 25-23 and got out to an 18-14 lead in the fourth set.
“I thought we were going five games, to be honest with you,” said Lamar coach Heather Woodman, a 2001 Arlington graduate.
But Lamar kept Arlington from forcing a fifth set. Lamar closed out the match on an 11-5 run that included numerous difficult digs that kept plays alive in a 25-23 match-clinching win. Senior setter Kendall Hagman credited a timeout just before Lamar’s decisive run with refocusing the team.
“At the timeout, we were like, ‘We are winning this in four,’ ” Hagman said. “’We don’t want to go to a Game 5. Remember why you came here.’”
Lamar, which won the first set 25-13 and the third set 25-16, just had to get back to playing its style of volleyball to rally in the fourth set, Viscuso said.
“Be calm, make plays and play our game,” Viscuso said of the team’s mindset. “It was just a matter of executing.”
Arlington, which finished fourth in 4-6A, reached the third round by defeating Abilene in the first round and Amarillo Tascosa in the area round. The Lady Vikings opened the playoffs by defeating Odessa Permian and followed that up by beating El Paso Franklin. Lamar won both of those rounds in a sweep.
Lamar and Arlington, whose campuses are just 4 miles apart, each brought a vocal fan base to the arena, giving the already big game an extra boost of excitement. “It actually made it a lot more hype coming into the game,” Murata said.
The game lived up to the hype. “We knew they were going to be tough,” Murata said of Arlington. “We just had to keep fighting.”