Before play starts, Midway’s volleyball players run through a series of elaborate high-fives with one another. Each set of players has a different routine, from flying chest bumps to swing-dance maneuvers.
Once the action commences, the Pantherettes keep it simple. They play hard, hit harder and they win.
Midway, entrenched at No. 1 in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings as well as the Texas Girls Coaches Association’s state poll, completed a perfect run through District 8-6A play with a typically dominating 25-14, 25-7, 25-10 victory over Harker Heights on Tuesday night at the MHS Arena.
Not only did Midway (41-2 overall, 12-0 in district) not drop a match throughout their district run, the Pantherettes didn’t lose a single set. The win over the Lady Knights was their 35th in a row.
“The seniors have worked hard for it for the past four years, and it just culminates with this being our first goal of hopefully many still to come,” Midway coach Ryan Porter said.
As senior classes go, the one at Midway has few peers. Five of the team’s eight seniors are committed to Division I programs, and all eight made contributions in the dusting of Heights.
The Lady Knights managed to keep pace in the very early stages, tying the score at 5 after an ace from Selicia Field in the opening set. But Midway tends to wear teams down with its relentless, high-flying attackers at the net, and the Pantherettes rolled off eight straight points with Samantha Sanders at the service line to leave the Lady Knights behind.
Midway royally flushed the Lady Knights with its serves. Emma Hinojosa punched three aces, while Callie Williams and Bianca Covento tallied two apiece. Sanders and Morgan Thielpape also dropped in aces.
Porter likes where his team is standing entering the playoffs, save for a injury to outside hitter Kennady Childers.
“I wish we were a little healthier,” Porter said. “We’ve got a couple of bumps and bruises that we need to get better. For the most part, we’ve got a great momentum right now. Team chemistry is awesome. Couldn’t ask for a whole lot more except 17 (Childers) to be healthy.”
The Pantherettes towered over the undersized Lady Knights in the final two sets. They dominated for long stretches, putting together a 15-0 run in the second set and a 10-0 surge in the third. At one point in the second set, they scored four straight points with four different players hammering the nails at the net – Allye Beth Deaton, Miranda Youmans, Sanders and Williams, respectively.
Deaton, a TCU pledge, powered 20 kills on 27 swings for a .741 attacking percentage. The Texas A&M-bound Sanders chipped in 12 kills, while Tennessee commit Williams produced 46 assists in just three sets while calling her own number five times for defense-befuddling kills.
Covento topped the back-line defense with 19 digs.
It was an emotional night of sorts for the Pantherettes, given the home-court swan song for the seniors. But they’re hoping that the best is yet to come.
“They’re my babies, and they’ve been my babies since the fourth grade,” Porter said. “They’ve been coming to my camps and clinics since they were in the fourth grade, and I’ve been there for almost every one of their big volleyball achievements. We’ve got one more to get together, and then can’t wait to see the majority of them carry it on to college and take that next step in their life. It’ll be fun to support them through that as well.”
Midway will play a warmup match against San Antonio Reagan on Friday in Marble Falls, then will open up Class 6A bi-district play against either DeSoto or Cedar Hill next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Hillsboro.
Crawford 3, Covington 0
The sixth-ranked Lady Pirates finished off an unbeaten run through District 13-2A with a 25-8, 25-8, 25-8 win over Covington.
Ana Maddox whacked 10 aces for Crawford (33-7, 14-0). Morgan Claxton ripped a team-high nine kills, while setter Haley Vaughn delivered 36 assists, five kills and four digs.
Crawford will open up the postseason against Hubbard at 7 p.m. Monday at University High School.
Lorena 3, China Spring 0
Lorena’s defense was stout in a 25-15, 25-16, 25-9 sweep of China Spring.
The 18th-ranked Lady Leopards (34-6 overall, 12-0 in 17-4A) received 19 digs from Maddie Miller and 15 more from Bailey Allison in the victory over the Lady Cougars. Ashlynn Sorrells ably directed the offense with 35 assists.
As district champs and the league’s No. 1 seed, Lorena will open up the playoffs against Athens at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Buffalo.