Cinco Ranch repeats as regional tournament team
The last Katy ISD team on the volleyball court was a No. 3 seed, but one accustomed to long postseason runs.
Cinco Ranch advanced to its seventh regional tournament and third in the last four years, continuing a strong recent stretch with coach Danielle Wells. The Cougars finished 32-8 overall, concluding their season with a five-set loss to Dawson.
Cinco Ranch finished third in District 19-6A with an 8-4 record for the second consecutive season. The Cougars once again found another gear in the playoffs, upending KISD’s No. 2 seed like last fall when they eliminated Tompkins.
They opened the playoffs with a sweep of Travis and won their sixth area championship in seven years with a four-set triumph against District 17-6A champion Cy-Fair.
The Cougars lost the district series to runner-up Katy, once in three sets and once in five sets, one of three district defeats for Cinco Ranch that went the distance.
But the Cougars won the third meeting Nov. 5 at the Merrell Center, on the strength of their net defense. Cinco Ranch amassed 13 blocks, six by junior Madalyn O’Brien in a 25-20, 25-15, 25-22 regional quarterfinal victory.
The Cougars broke an early tie at eight capitalizing on errors, then taking over with three blocks, the last creating an 18-12 lead. Haley Byrd’s ace helped put away the first set, which Danyle Courtley closed with a block.
The Cougars trailed 10-7 in set two after a string of kills by Autumn Gentry, who led all attackers with 13 kills. But Cinco Ranch again controlled the middle of the set, with an ace by Haley Payne and blocks by O’Brien and Emily Gallagher tying the set.
Courtley put Cinco Ranch ahead to stay, later adding an ace before a kill by Laura Ehieze helped the Cougars put away game two.
The Cougars charged to an 11-5 lead in game three before the Tigers cut the lead to one. But Payne, who had a team-high seven kills, and Kayla Griebl spurred a run that proved decisive.
Eva Fitzgerald (13 assists) and Aislan Lennon (11 assists) split the bulk of the setting against Katy, with Courtley adding five assists, six kills and a team-high 12 digs.
Katy received 19 digs from Gentry and 18 digs and an ace from Tori Whillock, while Maddie Waak turned in 17 assists and 12 digs.
Katy finished 33-15 with an area championship, defeating Dulles and Cypress Creek in the playoffs. The Tigers will graduate an accomplished senior class that includes Emma Sheehan, Emily Roberts, Ashton Lindsey, Gentry, Jayla Wicker, Allison Parks, Whillock, Amanda Meuth and Peyton Bunting.
KISD had three area volleyball champions, including 2017 state finalist Seven Lakes. The Spartans (27-11) repeated as 19-6A champions and swept Bush and Stratford before running into eventual Region III-6A champion Ridge Point, the same strong team they eliminated in the quarterfinals last year.
Natalie Winter, Morgan Janda, Joanna Van Valkenburgh, Jasmine Perry, Shelby Cooke, Lexi Stumbough, Rebecca Chang, Ava Conde, Anna Smith, Lauren Ross and Sammie Clewett played their final match with Seven Lakes. Many of them helped the Spartans make school history last fall.