The Axtell Lady Longhorns volleyball team entered its first playoff match eager to learn about postseason action.

The Crawford Lady Pirates were just ready to get after it again.

Crawford welcomed Axtell to the playoffs by starting hot and finishing strong as the Lady Pirates grasped a 3-0 match victory on Monday night at the University High School Gymnasium.

The Lady Pirates notched their 40th victory of the season, improving to 40-7 and setting up a Class 2A Region 2 playoff matchup with Thorndale on Thursday at Temple High School.

Crawford won the first game, 25-8, and the second, 25-13, before senior Whitney Dean served for the final 13 points of the third game. Dean’s serving streak paved the way for a 25-7 win that sealed the straight-sets victory.

“We knew that they struggled a little bit in serve receive, so we wanted to serve the ball in and serve it to the right spots,” Crawford coach Jeff Coker said. “Our kids that did that were real successful.”

Dean started her decisive run with an ace and junior Neillee Plemons followed with a kill to make it 14-7. Lady Pirates senior Morgan Claxton, who had a match-high 10 kills, mixed in a kill and a block to help Crawford pull away from Axtell.

The Lady Longhorns, whose volleyball program is in its fourth season, briefly swiped momentum from Crawford in the second game. Senior Kamryn Alejo put down a kill to give Axtell a 7-6 lead.

But Crawford senior Haley Vaughn helped the Lady Pirates regain control as she served for 12 straight points and an 18-7 lead before Axtell won a side out. Vaughn posted a pair of aces, and sophomore Anne Williams and senior Baylee Griffith each had two kills during the run.

Axtell coach Jenny Allison said it was difficult to find any area to exploit Crawford for points.

“It looks like there’re holes, but there’re not,” Allison said. “They cover the floor really well. Of course, they’ve got the good hitters, but they can put the ball wherever they want it.”

Crawford asserted its dominance at the net in the opening game. Claxton spiked a couple of kills and also dinked a point into the Axtell side as the Lady Pirates surged ahead, 5-0.

Although Crawford established a 20-6 lead in the first game, Coker was still looking for a more disciplined effort from his squad.

“It was great to win by what the score was, but to be honest, I thought we gave away too many points,” Coker said. “We missed too many serves. I think we can play a lot better than that even. That’s kind of what we’re hoping for going forward.”

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