HILLSBORO — When you get into the playoffs, you’ve got to bring your “A” game every night. Because, let’s face it, you’re always going up against “A” teams.
West didn’t pack the same power and precision it normally brings, and as a result the Lady Trojans’ hopes at a return engagement to the regional tournament vanished. Maypearl seized control early and never relented to vanquish the 10th-ranked Lady Trojans, 25-16, 25-23, 25-19, in the Region III-3A quarterfinals on Tuesday night at Hillsboro’s Eagle Gym.
Maypearl (30-13) will move on to the regional tournament in Longview, while West concludes another successful campaign at 36-8.
West coach Sandy Dickerson gave Maypearl its due, but she said the Lady Trojan players knew that they didn’t play up to their usual capability.
“I knew coming in how strong Maypearl’s blockers were, and their executing offensively is very strong,” Dickerson said. “Their sets were quicker than we’ve been seeing, the back sets, which makes a big difference. They had a wide variety of hitters, not just relied on one or two, which is a good team.”
West sprung out of the gate a little shaky, especially defensively. The Lady Trojans occasionally suffered breakdowns in communication, leading to two players trying to bump a ball at once, and the Lady Panthers capitalized en route to a quick 13-5 lead.
With Dickerson imploring her team to “Settle down!” West tried to find its bearings. The Lady Trojans grabbed five of the last eight points in the opening set, but they were too far down at that point for it to matter.
So the Lady Trojans hoped that they could press the reset button and fight back in the second set. And they definitely started a lot crisper, as senior standout Mia Pokluda produced a well-placed tip over the Maypearl blockers at the net and came up with a sturdy block of her own to spark a 10-5 West run to open the scoring.
But Maypearl showed plenty of pluck, and managed to keep rallies alive that seemed inches away from being West kills. The Lady Panthers surged back to tie the set 15-15 on a Madison Ball blast. The rest of the set proved nip and tuck, as the teams fought back and forth, leading to ties at 16, 17, 18, 20 and 23.
But Maypearl twisted in the dagger when Ball found a hole in the West defense with a timely tip, and then Marissa Stottlemire followed with a tricky sideways spike at the net that caught the Lady Trojans off guard. Those two points gave Maypearl a 25-23 win in the set, and took some of the air out of West.
“I just thought if we got one under our belt that would help,” Dickerson said. “I don’t know, you never know. But it would have been a different outcome score-wise. But we’ve never been in that situation, and we fought back, I thought. That’s what it’s about, making every attempt to do the best you can at the time.”
Indeed, West kept fighting and scratching to the end. Their grit may have been best exemplified by the play of sophomore libero Claire Simmons. In addition to routinely delivering digs on high-velocity spatter from Maypearl, Simmons also shook off a painful collision with the line judge when trying to chase down a high pass.
West trailed just 17-15 late in the third set, but Maypearl used a sneaky bump kill from Peyton Pogue to fuel an 8-2 closing run to seal the match.
“We just didn’t block as much as we have in the past, and I think that definitely didn’t help,” Dickerson said. “We definitely didn’t have as many hits as we normally do in the past. So that’s what it is.”