Ridge Point falls short in State Semis, Panthers finish 46-5
The first UIL Class 6A state semifinal at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland on Friday featured a great match between Byron Nelson and Schertz Clemens, a match that Nelson won despite a real struggle.
However, that match couldn't hold a candle to Ridge Point's 6A semifinal match with Plano West.
After losing the first two sets to the state's No. 4 ranked Wolves, Coach Lauryn Bailey's Panthers dug deep inside themselves and found a way to win the third set. And then the fourth.
Tied at 2-2 in sets, the Wolves and Panthers put on one of the most entertaining, yet dramatic fifth sets in the history of the UIL State Tournament. The two teams literally went point-for-point up to Point No. 11, when Plano West senior Iman Ndiaye (who's headed to UCLA) slammed two kills in three serves to put the Wolves up 14-12.
A service error got the Panthers back to within one but PWHS senior Noelle then slammed a kill to end the match - and Ridge Point's season - as the Wolves won 15-13.
The Panthers' amazing 2019 campaign ended with a spectacular 46-5 record. Plano West (40-5) advanced to Saturday night's 7 p.m. matchup against Byron Nelson for the 6A state championship.
Nothing went right for the Panthers in Sets 1 and 2.
Plano West spread the offene around their big hitters: Ndiaye (27 kills on the night along with three digs and two total blocks); Jill Pressly (headed to DePaul, 26 kills, 16 digs, two total blocks); and Piatas (University of Miami, 10 kills, three digs and two total blocks), among others.
No one would have faulted the Panthers if they fell in three sets. No one, that is, except first-year coach Bailey and the Panthers themselves.
"Nothing was gonna stop them' they did exactly what champions should do," Bailey explained. "We could have very easily lost in three sets. But these girls are fighters and champions and they played their hearts out.
"That defines them as who they are. The three seniors (Reagan Rutherford, Claire Jeter and Nia McCardell) are the epitome of leadership, their determination was amazing.."
Back came the Panthers.
They stayed even up until 9-9 in Set 3, jumped out to a 13-9 edge, got kills from Lindsey Ogle (two kills, two digs) and Alexis Roberson (one kill and four total blocks) to go up 15-12, then pulled away to a 22-16 lead on two straight kills by Sydney Jordan (nine kills and two digs), Tiana Davis (eight kills and three digs) then pounded two kills on three serves to close out the set for the Panthers, 25-18. More than anything else, the growth of the Panthers' confidence, combined with better blocking and passing, fueled the squad in Set 4.
Last year's VYPE Player of the Year, Claire Jeter, (11 kills and six total blocks) also found her groove, pounding three kills and combining with Davis for a block in the first 11 points alone.The Panthers jumped out to a 17-8 lead then survived a 7-0 run by the Wolves that cut their lead to 17-15. The two teams traded points although PWHS was able to eventually tie at 20. From there, Roberson stepped up and hammered three kills and Jordan added one more as the Panthers finished the set on a 4-1 run to win 25-21.
That set up a fifth set that was one of the best ever at the State Tournament. The squads literally traded points at from Point 1 through Point 11; neither team was able to get more than one point ahead.
"We'll look back on that fifth set and hate the fact we couldn't score a couple points in a row," Bailey recalled.
At 11-11, the Wolves got two straight kills from Ndiaye to go up 13-11. A service error made it 13-12 but Ndiaye again cranked out a kill to put it at 14-12. Another Plano West service error kept it alive at 14-13. Then, Piatas took a set from Ashley Le (47 assists, nine digs, four aces and one kill) and slammed it past the Panthers' defense for the final point.
Reagan Rutherford was her usual outstanding self as she totaled a triple-double: 16 kills, 16 assists, 12 digs and one block. Britney Ong dug out 17 balls and assisted on four kills. Nia McCardell chipped in with 16 digs, eight assists, two aces, and one kill. The Panthers actually out-blocked the Wolves, 10.5 to seven. Rutherford (headed to the University of Kentucky), Jeter (headed to Texas A&M) and McCardell (headed to Rice University) were singled out by Bailey.
"These three girls are going to college and will continue playing volleyball," she said. "This is the beginning for them; they're going to their (respective) schools and will show what amazing athletes and women they are."
Other graduating seniors include Kendall Sekula (Concordia-Irvine), Ong, Randee Hennings, Baleigh Stephens and Tyler Cain.