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Ridge Point is two wins away from a third trip to state in four years after sweeping Tompkins, 3-0, in their Region III-6A quarterfinal Monday at the Merrell Center.
KATY—As talented as Ridge Point is, and the talent is indeed substantial, it was the Panthers' heart and depth that stole the show in a 3-0 sweep of Tompkins in their Region III-6A quarterfinal Monday evening at the Merrell Center.
After taking the first set, 25-20, the Panthers (36-10) quickly found themselves trailing 11-4 in the second. Errors and the outstanding play of Tompkins junior hitter Cindy Tchouangwa were the primary culprits.
But the Panthers never gave in. Never griped or hung their heads. Slowly, they started chipping away. A Sydney Jordan block and kill here. A Nina Moorer point there. An Arissa Smith block.
And leading the charge was a freshman, Kennedi Rogers. Rogers had three big points late in the second set, swinging exceptionally well from the left side, and Ridge Point rallied for the win, 26-24.
"Kennedi is the type where pressure doesn't really get to her," Panthers coach Lauryn Bailey said. "She takes all the experience and advice from the upperclassmen. We're at practice every day and all our upperclassmen are talking to her about what she needs to do and how to fix certain things. She's just soaking it all in. She's going to do great things for us."
It was Rogers' right-handed swing cross court that punctuated Ridge Point's win in the second set.
"I saw the line was open, and their blocking was shifting more toward across," said Rogers, who had six kills. "I just used whatever I had, really."
.@RP_Volleyball gets the sweep! Alexis Roberson takes care of the third set, 25-16. Panthers advance to the regional semis. #txhsvb @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Pantherspic.twitter.com/DXMeuZk6xg — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
The second set win rang significant for Ridge Point.
"It was huge for us, as far as not letting our errors and what they were doing get in our heads," said senior Alexis Roberson, who had 10 kills and a block. "We had to focus on playing as a team and knowing we can come back, and we did."
From there, an elated Panthers team easily handled a deflated Falcons team.
Ridge Point jumped out to a 17-11 lead in the third set, behind more strong play from Rogers, Jordan, and defensive specialist Josie Condrey, and won, 25-16.
Some of the usual suspects filled up the stat sheet for Ridge Point. Aside from Roberson, Jordan had eight kills, an ace, and a block. Moorer had seven kills. Kayla Wilson had five kills. Smith had three kills and two blocks.
Sydney Jordan puts away the first set for @RP_Volleyball, 25-20. #txhsvb @RP_PantherPride @FBISDAthleticspic.twitter.com/Q5l6AOpo05 — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
But lately, it's been the two freshmen that have stepped up in big moments. In Ridge Point's 3-1 area playoff win against Memorial on Thursday, it was Aaliyah Smith with a big block and kill. Against Tompkins, it was Rogers.
Interestingly, it was during Ridge Point's sweep of Tompkins in their first meeting Aug. 20 that Rogers—whom Bailey has used situationally this season, primarily as a hitting specialist— said she finally overcame all the nerves and jitters typical of a freshman playing on varsity.
"It boosted my confidence," said Rogers, who only played one set in that game but had kills on each of her two attacks. "All my teammates cheered for me. It was a relief, and it got me overwhelmed with happiness. I always want that feeling."
Bailey said depth can be a game-changer as a team goes deeper into the playoffs.
"You can come and scout us all you want, but I can throw new people in there at any time," she said. "Everybody's opportunity is going to come, and when it comes you've got to be ready. They are."
The Panthers executed well in all aspects of the game against a Tompkins team that had been dominant this season, winning 35 of 40 games entering Monday.
"We knew they had really good hitters and they were going to get their points. We just had to focus on us and make sure we got our 25 (points) before they got theirs," Roberson said. "Defensively, maybe not stuff-blocks, but at least getting touches on the ball were big. The back row flying around us, they did really well. It all came together to where we were able to slow them down enough."
And now Ridge Point is two wins away from a third trip to state in four years.
"These girls are tired," Bailey said. "It's been a long year, ever since last year and the COVID year and then coming back and going to tournaments again. If we've made it this far, we're going to keep going. They're not going to come in and just let you take a set from them.
"They'll fight, and when we decide to fight back, we pull it out in the end."
From left to right, Ridge Point's Alexis Roberson, Nylah Raspberry and Nina Moorer were just a few of a plethora of Panthers who starred in a Class 6A bi-district playoff sweep of Seven Lakes on Tuesday in Katy.
KATY—The hashtag on social media is "#DefyTheOdds." It personifies Ridge Point volleyball.
Dating back to last year, the Panthers have felt overlooked, unappreciated. Maybe even disrespected? That's been the drive behind this year's team, which craves any and every opportunity to show what it's got.
The Panthers showed plenty Tuesday evening at the Merrell Center. Ridge Point swept defending Class 6A state champ Seven Lakes in their Region III-6A bi-district playoff, 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-23).
It wasn't easy. It was tough. It demanded a lot out of them. But then again, that's how the Panthers want it as they seek a third state tournament appearance in four years.
"We had motivation losing in the first round last year," coach Lauryn Bailey said. "After the 2019 team graduated, people brushed us under the rug. They said we didn't have much talent. We had talent last year; we just couldn't put the pieces together.
"This year, with people counting us out, our girls took that personally. The odds are stacked against us, and we've preached keep working. It showed tonight. At one point we were down six or seven points, and they kept working. That's what we're trying to do.
"We're going to keep working until somebody gets rid of us."
Ridge Point is 34-10, winners of 17 of the last 18 games.
"Our good chemistry off the court really shows on the court," senior Kayla Wilson said. "It shows when we play and hit and swing and set each other up. We're there for each other."
The Panthers got production from everywhere. Six players had five or more kills: senior Alexis Roberson (10 kills, block), junior Sydney Jordan (seven kills, 10 digs), junior Arissa Smith (six kills, three blocks), Wilson (seven kills, block), senior Nina Moorer (five kills, 11 digs, two blocks) and freshman Kennedi Rogers (five kills, block).
Freshman Kennedi Rogers with the shot for @RP_Volleyball. Panthers up 21-18 in the first set. #txhsvb @RP_PantherPridepic.twitter.com/SjgVrT4aOv — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Senior libero Nylah Raspberry, whom Bailey praised as a leader for establishing an accountability within this team that wasn't there last season, was brilliant defensively with 21 digs. Moorer ran the offense with precision, totaling 23 assists.
"From top to bottom, from 14-year-old to 18-year-old, we're all the same," Wilson said. "We're all equally as good. No one thinks they're better than anyone else. That's what I love about this team. We're together."
Seven Lakes went up 11-5 in the third set. Ridge Point rallied back to eventually force an 18-all tie. Then the Spartans went back up by three, 21-18. The Panthers again answered, tying it at 21-all.
From there, Smith had two big points, and sophomore Carrington Cook put the game away with her third point of the game.
Carrington Cook with the capper in what was an amazing third set. @RP_Volleyball wins 25-23 to sweep defending 6A state champ Seven Lakes. #txhsvb @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Pantherspic.twitter.com/r53CBvz0tc — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
"The depth is what makes us so good," Bailey said. "We're able to go to practice every day and compete every day because of our depth. That's because of our seniors, our leadership. They come to work every day at practice and don't let whether you're a freshman or sophomore or whoever affect anything. Everyone comes in, everyone works hard, and we go home. We do what we need to do."
'Keep working,' as Bailey likes to say. The Panthers are surging because of that work, and they're continuing to get better. Defense is turning into offense. The offense is playing at a considerably faster pace than earlier this season.
It's a team of players that makes no excuses and gets the job done. No questions asked.
"Everyone understands they have a job to do," Bailey said. "Nothing is taken personally or emotionally or to heart. They just keep working."