In a rematch of last year’s 5A Region I quarterfinal round, Colleyville Heritage bested Saginaw Boswell and avenged its loss in 2016 with a sweep 25-12, 25-21, 25-21 at Richland High School.
The Panthers (38-7) heads to Abilene for the regional tournament, their first since 2013. They will face Canyon Randall (36-8), which beat Hereford in four, 4 p.m. Friday at McMurry University.
“It was a completely different game,” coach Bri Barker-Groth said. “Of course you look back and you want that revenge, but we’re a whole new team and they’re a whole new team.”
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Heritage started fast and Boswell (29-12) never recovered. The Panthers appeared to clean up some of last year’s mistakes.
“We were all focused, excited and had a really good game plan,” said senior outside hitter Lauren Evans, an Arkansas commit.
In the opening game, the Panthers got contributions from everyone on the court. Evans had a couple key kills and registered back-to-back aces to give them a 21-9 lead.
Junior hitter Ashley McKillop might have been the player of the set as she put in some huge blocks and digs. Junior libero Jillian Dits, a Tulane commit, also had a good game.
“We did a good job off the block,” Dits said. “Ashley did a great job and she gave us some huge points.”
This year’s bunch as four seniors in Evans, Byrn Gerlich, Paige Dalri and Mari Prazak.
“We definitely want to do it for the seniors,” junior setter Grace Koper said. “We have a great senior class.”
Both the second and third game were tight, but the Panthers were able to pull away late. If Heritage can win Friday, it’ll advance to Saturday’s final, where it could face a familiar opponent - Amarillo. The Sandies face off with Aledo, 6 p.m. Friday.
Amarillo (39-7) has won five state titles in the past decade, including year. Barker-Groth knows a lot about that.
She was a four-year standout for the Sandies and won two titles for mother Jan Barker, who’s still with the program.
“I get asked a lot what it was like to play for her, but never been asked what it’s like to play against her because it’s never happened,” Barker-Groth said. “I’m waiting, excited about it, I feel like I know Amarillo volleyball and I’m hoping we get there.”
Nicholas and Claire Gay have something in common this season.
Not only do they share the same name - the couple got married in 2014 - but both are headed to the regional tournament.
Both are in their first year as head coaches at Weatherford and Aledo, and both clinched a spot with wins on Tuesday night.
The Kangaroos (40-6) defeated El Paso Coronado 25-20, 25-19, 25-14 to advance to their first regional tournament. They have a date with defending two-time state champ Hebron (37-7), 8 p.m. Friday at Glen Rose.
“I’m really excited for this group of kids and the town of Weatherford,” Nicholas said. “They have bought in, worked hard, played as a team the entire year and have gotten better everyday in practice and in games.
He came to the Roos after spending two years at Denton Ryan. Prior to Ryan, he was also an assistant with Colleyville Heritage and head coach with Graham and Sunnyvale. He took a Ryan team that went 4-44 in four seasons before his arrival and coached the Raiders to a 20-21 record in 2015 and 31-15, undefeated District 5-5A championship in 2016 where they went to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and won a playoff game for the first time since 2009.
“This has been a great experience for both of us to coach at both of these schools,” Claire said. “I am proud of him and what he has brought to Roo Volleyball and that those girls have bought in to him.”
Claire had been the head coach at Decatur for 10 seasons where she won state championships in 2013 and 2014.
Her Bearcats (35-12) won the first two sets vs. Grapevine on Tuesday night before winning Game 5, 26-24, 25-14, 23-25, 23-25, 15-9 at Saginaw High School. It’s the program’s second-straight trip to the regional tournament and 17th since 1996. They went to state in 2012 and 2014.
“I think it's a testament to the program and what it stands for,” Claire said. “This was a great match for us to expose our weaknesses and learn to battle. It's the first time all season we have gone five. Props to Grapevine to playing their hearts out and keeping the ball in play. It shows a lot of character on behalf of our girls.”
Byron Nelson defeated Southlake Carroll 20-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-22 at Lewisville High School to clinch its first trip to the regional tournament since 2011.
The Bobcats (38-9) head to Glen Rose for the 6A Region I tourney where they’ll face Arlington Martin (40-5), 6 p.m. Friday. The two teams are joined with others from the Metroplex, Weatherford and Hebron.
“From the beginning of the season our kids have welcomed the challenge of being in one of the toughest districts in the state because we knew it would prepare us for playoffs,” Nelson coach Libby Pacheco said. “This group of players has bought into the team concept and play hard for each other and their school. Any time you put a group of players like that together, anything is possible. I’m incredibly proud of each and every one of them.”
It was the second time in three meetings this season that Nelson defeated Carroll.
As for Martin, the Warriors swept Keller 25-20, 31-29, 25-13 at LD Bell. It’s the program’s first trip to the regional tourney since 2013. Their last regional final came in 2005 when they won the state championship.