Experience serves as the best teacher. What the Grapevine volleyball program learned over the weekend in Abilene could be a precursor to bigger moments its future.
A young squad took the first two games against Canyon Randall of the Class 5A Region I finals at Kimbrell Arena. But a Randall roster filled with juniors and seniors rallied, won the final three games to capture the championship and advanced to the state tournament this weekend in Garland.
Grapevine concluded its season at 33-17.
“There really wasn’t any particular moment or play that swung it,” Grapevine coach Kori Cooper said. “Randall just used its experience to beat us. They’re a veteran team. They’ve been there. They’re poised. We played hard and fought. They just made some timely plays.”
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Randall eventually emerged by winning a back-and-forth fourth game 25-23. Then it ran away in the fifth game, 15-8.
It may appear that the moment became too big for this group needing to win only one more game to get to Garland. However, Cooper said her team didn’t react poorly when it jumped out quickly.
“They handled it fine,” Cooper said. “I thought we played well. We competed as hard as we could have. They played loose. I didn’t want to over-coach them. They played with energy and fun. But we just got beat.”
Cooper’s message to her team was that she didn’t want it to feel empty. This program went undefeated in District 6-5A and didn’t drop a set in the postseason until the regional finals. Indeed, it was an impressive run as Grapevine enjoyed its deepest playoff run in two decades.
“They had no reason to hang their heads,” Cooper said. “They put Grapevine volleyball back on the map. We developed a culture of excellence. This group bought in from Day 1. I thought they could be a state championship contender. They believed and everything meshed from there.”
As a second-year coach, Cooper said she believed she did a better job of working with her staff and making sure everything was set up so the season could run smoothly.
“I have three really good assistants,” Cooper said.
What this team is losing
Grapevine is losing two of its better players from this team in senior right side/outside hitters Taylor Kress and Payton Gidney.
So the offseason will focus on where the offensive productivity will come from. What’s in this program’s favor is that Kress and Gidney are the only seniors where Grapevine received significant productivity.
“We’re losing two fantastic leaders and we have to fill the holes there,” Cooper said. “But the good thing is that there is competition at every spot. We certainly would like to have a lot of things answered as we’re going through the offseason.”
Cooper said that her team needs to perform better blocking. It will be emphasized during the offseason.
It’s going to be a certainty that freshman outside hitter Symone Wesley will receive a lot of attention from Division I schools. She continued to improve her stock and growth with a strong performance in Abilene.
“There’s no telling with Symone what she can do,” Cooper said. “She’s got great athletic tools. Symone had a great weekend and was a great player for us all year.”