It was a bit intimating when Jordan Rudolf stared at Trimble Tech’s new district realignment back in February. The school, which had nearly 1,700 students, was bumped up to 6A for the first time because of UIL rules on alternative campuses.
The cut-off for 6A schools was 2,190 and higher.
“I kept telling the girls that it’s going to better us and push us harder being in 6A,” said Rudolf, who’s in her eighth season as Tech’s head coach. “It’s going to help us win down the line and be more competitive all throughout the season.”
Despite fighting in a nine-team District 4-6A with larger schools like Arlington Martin (3,456), Lamar (2,852) and even sister school Paschal (2,559), the Bulldogs surprised many by finishing third.
They went 32-7 overall and 12-4 in district, which put them in a first-round match at Clyde High School with San Angelo Central, the No. 2 seed and a co-champion out of 3-6A.
Tech dropped the opening set 18-25, but rallied to win the final three 25-10, 25-19, 25-20.
It’s believed to be the first playoff victory in program history.
“As the fourth set came down to the end, I started to think ‘we’re actually going to win’ and had to make it real in my mind while still remaining focus,” Rudolf said. When the game ended, it wasn’t so much shock, but just pure joy. It was a different feeling than any other win. I was so excited for the kids because they have worked hard all year long. It’s the proudest moment as a coach that I ever had.”
The Bulldogs (33-7) look to win another vs. Midland Lee (29-10) in the 6A Region I area round at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Abilene Cooper.
“It’s a real goal of ours since my first year in 2011,” Rudolf said. “We made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and continued to make the playoffs. This program has been fighting toward it especially the past four years with this senior class.”
One of those seniors is Zyonn Smith, who’s been on the team since her freshman year. She recorded a team-high 27 kills vs. Central and added 24 digs. A’nya Ivory, who had four blocks, is the other that has played all four years.
Junior Keyannu Strange registered 18 kills and 15 digs while senior Tyla Ellis had 44 assists. Senior Crystal Avelar added 21 digs and junior America Galvan led the team with 32 digs.
“A lot of people underestimated us,” Rudolf said. “They see Fort Worth in the front of our name and think they’re going to walk in and beat us. They don’t understand that we have something going on at Trimble Tech. We’re the underdogs and have a few tricks up our sleeves.”
“Our parents have been phenomenal all year long too,” Rudolf added. “They go to all our games and have enjoyed it all season.”
But Tech’s historic win is just one of many for Fort Worth ISD.
Arlington Heights defeated Mansfield Timberview for its first playoff win since 2007. Western Hills beat Summit International Prep for its first since 1996. Benbrook also won its first-ever playoff game. The Bobcats are in their third year.
Paschal beat Richland for its fourth playoff win in the past 25 years. The others came in 1993, 2011 and 2016.
“I feel the volleyball culture has grown,” Rudolf said. “The younger kids are starting to see that volleyball is actually a fun sport to play and they want to get involved. We have great numbers in our volleyball program. Fort Worth is a great community and you start to see more kids show interest in our sport.”
North Side had its most wins since 2009 and snapped an 8-year playoff drought.
Eastern Hills was 1-39 the previous two years, but the Highlanders won eight games this season and also made the playoffs.
Poly won 11 games after going 1-38 the previous two seasons. The Parrots last won multiple games in 2011 and also won their first district game since 2012.
Carter-Riverside finished second in district for the first time in 21 years.
“There are great coaches in this district,” Rudolf said. “They work hard all year long. We go to clinics and try to learn more about the game. Coaches in our community are passionate about the sport.”