George Ranch responds to pressure for area crown
It is difficult to have a more intense opening to the postseason than District 23-6A champion George Ranch experienced.
The Longhorns went the distance in both of their first two playoff matches, but eliminated Clear Brook and Summer Creek in five sets to reach their fourth regional quarterfinal in five years.
They earned a third-round showdown with District 24-6A champion Clear Springs to decide who advances to the Region III-6A Tournament.
“We pulled it together when we need to pull it together,” George Ranch coach Cheyanne Forshee said. “This is a big stage and I’ve got four freshmen who are starters. That’s really tough for them. But I think my senior leadership is really trying to pull them through and help them grow, which is really good.”
The Longhorns faced elimination in two sets Oct. 30 against 24-6A No. 4 seed Clear Brook, rallying for a 25-16, 24-26, 23-25, 25-13, 15-10 victory. Senior Kennedy Muckelroy led the offense with 23 kills, hitting .463 with five blocks.
Senior Kennedy Prince had 17 kills, while senior Mady Rathmell tallied 21 assists, 15 digs and three aces. Senior Audrey Tuttle led the back defense with 24 digs, with freshman Dylan Hoskins adding 15.
Sophomore Alexandra Tennon was a force at the net with 13 blocks, with freshman Logan Lednicky adding eight. Freshman Allie Sczech contributed nine kills and five blocks. Senior Alaina Lanik led with 24 assists.
George Ranch (38-8) earned its ninth straight win Nov. 2 against Summer Creek, but the Bulldogs did not make it easy, led by Kendall Dutton’s 31 kills.
The Longhorns started strong, with Prince providing six of their last nine points in the first set. Sczech spiked home the game winner, while Muckelroy sparked a 6-0 run to open the second game.
But Summer Creek rallied to even the match and outplayed George Ranch in set four to tie it once again. The Bulldogs found holes in the defense with several tips and cross-court shots.
“Hats off to Summer Creek,” Forshee said. “They came to play. They laid it all on the line. They did everything above and beyond. They fought.”
Tennon got the Longhorns started in set three, while Muckelroy (20 kills) and Prince (28 kills) kept them in a tight game. George Ranch had to avert game point twice, the latter on a clutch block by Lednicky. Freshman Avery Shimaitis slammed the door with one of her six kills for a crucial victory.
But Summer Creek answered, putting the pressure back on the Longhorns.
“I just told them now we’re back at square one,” Forshee said. “It’s 2-2. You’ve got 15 points to get this done. Seniors, are you ready for your season to be over? If we’d have played that the whole time I think it would have been a different story.”
George Ranch started set five with a 4-0 run, led by Tuttle’s ace, two kills by Muckelroy and a kill by Tennon. The Bulldogs rallied for a 5-4 lead, but a tip by Lanik, a spike that grazed the sideline by Muckelroy and three points by Prince put the Longhorns in front to stay.
Sczech’s block built an 11-8 lead to stop Summer Creek’s last bit of momentum. A kill by Muckelroy put away the match.
The win left George Ranch in position to reach its third regional tournament in four years. The Longhorns reached the Class 5A state tournament in 2015 and were regional finalists the following year, their first in 6A.
Hightower makes school history
The Hightower volleyball team had never played in a playoff match before hosting District 23-5A champion Waltrip, Oct. 29 at HHS.
The Hurricanes added to their historic season with their first playoff victory, a convincing 25-10, 25-15, 25-12 sweep led by 10 aces and four kills from senior Aniah Adams.
Seniors Tyana Days, Dairah Ligons and Michayla Black combined for 15 kills as part of a balanced attack. Junior Claudia Ayerite led with 15 assists and seven digs, with junior Watta Kanneh adding six digs.
Though the season ended with an area sweep by Santa Fe, Hightower finished a memorable year 20-17, including nine district wins.
District 24-5A still had one team playing after two rounds. No. 1 seed Foster improved to 34-8 overall with sweeps of Madison and Port Neches-Groves for the area championship.
Catherine Krieger led with nine kills and eight aces in a quick bi-district match, then hit .436 with 19 kills against PNG. Lauryn Richardson (7 kills) and Ainsley Suttle (5 kills) contributed offensively, while Ashley Isbell and Briana Creery combined for 32 assists and Lauren Sulak matched Krieger with 16 digs.
Needville, Fulshear, East Bernard win area titles
District 25-4A co-champions Needville and Fulshear both opened the postseason strong, advancing to the Region IV-4A quarterfinals. The Chargers (38-6), a No. 2 seed, eliminated La Grange in four sets and took down 28-4A champion Wimberley in an area sweep.
Defending state champion and No. 1 seed Needville swept Smithville before holding off 28-4A runner-up Boerne in five sets.
Anna Gadway (18), Madison Schultz (17) and Baley Stavinoha (10) all reached double figures in kills in the area victory. Schultz added seven aces and 18 digs, while Gadway led with 29 assists and nine blocks.
Treasure Ellerbe (21 assists), Tori Eavenson (17 digs), Samantha Dostal (13 digs) and Maddy Hrncir (8 kills, .500 hitting) were key contributors as the Blue Jays improved to 37-8 overall.
East Bernard is still defending its own regional championship after two playoff sweeps. The District 24-3A champions cruised past Onalaska and Buna to improve to 30-13.
District 27-2A champion Brazos added a bi-district championship to its credentials, ousting Kenedy in four sets. Snook ended the Cougars’ season in the area playoffs in four games.