Cy Ranch, Cy Woods survive and advance
Playoff volleyball started with a bang Monday, as both Cy-Fair ISD teams, Cy Woods and Cy Ranch, won their respective matches in the bi-district round at the Coleman Coliseum to advance to area.
Cy Woods played first, facing 18-6A champion Bellaire. Bellaire was 14-0 in district play headed into Monday’s matchup, facing the Lady Wildcats, who found themselves as the four-seed in 17-6A after losing a coin flip with Cy Ranch. The two teams had an identical 13-5 record through the district season, hence the coin flip.
Cy Woods struggled a bit in the first three sets, before settling down and playing the brand of competent, well-executed volleyball that had come to define the club over the last half of the district schedule. Cy Woods won in four sets (25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 25-15), thanks in part to contributions from the youth on the roster.
Cy Woods head coach Ashley Ahlfinger acknowledged the slow start in her postgame comments, and said that that comes with the territory on a roster featuring as many sophomores (five) as seniors.
“I think we came out, and it was our first playoff game, and we’ve got some young kids, some kids that haven’t had a lot of playoff experience,” Ahlfinger said. “I think we played really nervous, and we were a little off our game. But they kept believing in the young kids, and I really had some kids step up today and play some of the best games they’ve played all season.”
Though the win was a team effort, according to Ahlfinger, a few players in particular distinguished themselves in Monday’s contest.
“Hannah Estupinan, our middle, had four point blocks and hit .280-something,” Ahlfinger said. “And AnnFlorian Reder hit around .250 and made some big plays for us. Clare Reilly came up and served phenomenally and aggressively and was smart offensively. It was really neat to see those young kids have their best games under the most pressure.”
Senior outside hitter Paige Sebesta was aggressive, finishing with four aces, 20 kills and 13 digs, and senior setter Allison Hughes also recorded four aces to go along with her 42 assists and 11 digs, but the youth movement was in full effect Monday. The sophomores Estupinan and Reilly and junior middle blocker Cate Reese all contributed six kills, while sophomore Reder finished second on the team with 12.
Ahlfinger said that she expects a step forward from her team after it earned its first playoff win. With the experience, she expects fewer nerves and better execution the next time out.
“We got this under our belt,” Ahlfinger said. “Monica Jankowiak stepped up on the right side for us and provided a lot of leadership and comfort to her team. It was really a team effort in a game in which we were just struggling.”
The second contest of the double-header featured Cy Ranch against 18-6A runner-up Houston Westside. The Lady Mustangs had no trouble with the Lady Wolves, knocking them off in straight sets (25-14, 25-22, 25-13).
That set two was so close was mostly the result of a string of unforced errors on Cy Ranch’s part, something head coach Candice Silberschatz says the team has to get cleaned up as it prepares for the next round of playoff action.
“It’s nice to get some momentum going in,” Silberschatz said. “The second set, we looked at it and there were maybe 20 errors on us that we gave them. So we’ve got to clean that up for sure. We’ve got some fierce competition going forward. Like I told the girls, this is one of the, I think, top two state tournaments in the nation. So I told them to celebrate tonight, and we have to re-focus tomorrow for what’s coming up.”
Senior Camry Dabney logged eight kills against Westside, but was one of several Mustangs plagued by errors throughout the night. Hannah Teter and Kayla Benton recorded nine kills, hitting .300 and .375, respectively. The scoring was pretty well distributed across the roster, which Silberschatz says is typical for her team and a sign of strength.
“I think our biggest asset is that we are just a very well-balanced team,” Silberschatz said. “We go up against some teams, and it’s like ‘it’s that girl – it’s always going to be her.’ For us, it’s pretty balanced all across the net. And back row, defensively, they’re very consistent. So as long as we come to play with the right mindset, we’ll be fine.”
Despite an effort that, like Cy Woods, was not consistent with the Mustangs’ best, Silberschatz thought several facets of Mustang Volleyball performed up to expectations.
“Our defense made some great pickups,” Silbershatz said. “Our middles are consistent and a threat and they hold a lot of blocks for us. Brooke Rasmussen came in and made some great swings. But it was a pretty well-balanced team effort.”
Like Cy Woods, Cy Ranch won and advanced, living to fight another day in the playoffs, despite playing somewhat inconsistently and below maximum efficiency. And Cy Ranch won going away, in straight sets, at times giving away more points to Westside through errors than the Lady Wolves earned through scoring. That bodes well for Cy Ranch, if the Lady Mustangs can clean up the execution, and Silberschatz said that it speaks to the playoff preparation that the 17-6A regular season schedule provides.
“That’s one of the things about our district,” Silberschatz said. “It prepares you for a long run in the playoffs. I think all the schools in 17-6A could go a long way in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to knock each other out at some point.”
Both Cy Woods and Cy Ranch are waiting on other matches to find out who their opponents will be in the area round, and where and when those matches will be played.
Cy Woods will face the winner of Katy and Fort Bend Dulles, while Cy Ranch will play the winner of Seven Lakes and Fort Bend Travis. Should the teams win those matchups, they will both likely be facing Cy-Fair ISD opponents in the subsequent rounds, pending the results from Langham Creek’s and Cy Falls’ first two rounds.
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