Crawford entered the second week of the volleyball playoffs ranked atop Class 2A and set to face sixth-ranked Wortham in the third round of the playoffs.
That gave the Lady Pirates the chance to prove their merit and they did just that, spiking Wortham in straight sets on Monday night at the University High School gym.
Crawford notched 25-16 and 25-8 wins in the first two games, then came from behind to win Game 3, 25-18, to move on in the playoffs.
In doing so, the Lady Pirates (42-7) earned a berth in the 2A Region 2 tournament in Weatherford. Crawford will play the Lindsay vs. Poolville winner in a regional semifinal on Friday evening.
The Lady Pirates enforced their will on Wortham early in the third-round playoff match. After closing out the opening set with a decisive 15-6 run, Crawford kept it going from the start of Game 2.
Outside hitters Morgan Claxton and Niellee Plemons each put down a pair of kills and Whitney Dean served up an ace as Crawford established a 6-1 lead and never looked back in that set.
“I thought we were really good the first two sets and the third set we kind of had a little bit of a lull there,” Crawford coach Jeff Coker said. “We were just giving too many points away. But the first two we were definitely really good.”
Lady Bulldogs outside hitter Ashley Mao served two aces and a couple of Lady Pirate errors helped Wortham go on a four-point run to take a 17-11 lead in the third game.
But then Dean came to serve and changed the momentum.
A week ago, Dean served for the final 13 points in the clinching set of the Lady Pirates’ playoff-opener against Axtell. She followed it up by serving for nine-straight crucial points against Wortham.
Claxton posted a kill and a block, then Dean served a pair of aces around another Claxton kill to shift Crawford’s run into high gear.
“After we started getting on that run, (the Lady Bulldogs) shanked a few balls and I could see them getting down on themselves,” said Lady Pirates setter Haley Vaughn, who had 31 assists. “We decided to take charge of the game again.”
By the time Dean’s serve ended, Crawford had flipped the game and taken a 21-17 lead. The Lady Pirates closed it out soon after with a Peyton Elmore ace.
Claxton led Crawford with 13 kills, Plemons added 7 and Baylee Griffith had 6.
The Lady Pirates, who reached the state tournament in 2013 and 2015, will make their fifth appearance in the regional tournament this weekend.
Coker said Crawford will face a steep challenge in the semifinals, but he believes his team is built for the pressure of this time of year.
“This group had a tough playoff loss last year and I think it really motivated them this summer,” Coker said. “We lost in the second round last year. This group has just been super focused all year. It’s been a great group. They enjoy being together and you don’t want it to end.”