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Home Sweep Home: Plano hitters decimate East block in three-set win
On Friday, Plano Senior (6-2 in district) essentially lost its chance at a 10-5A volleyball title.
Tuesday night, the Lady Wildcats took their frustrations out on Plano East (3-5).
"After [losing to McKinney Boyd] we talked about how we didn't play as well as we were capable of," said Teri Minnis, Plano head coach. "So we wanted to come out with a good showing tonight and I think we did that from the very first point."
Plano's sweep of East (25-8, 25-12, 25-15) not only got the Lady Wildcats back into the win column, it got them back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
"We set plenty of goals at the beginning of the season," said Minnis, who is in her first year at the helm," and one of them was to make the playoffs, so I'm very proud of the girls right now."
The Plano players seconded that emotion.
"This is really big for us," said Kiley Long, Lady Wildcats junior outside hitter. "I'm especially excited for the older girls, who have been through this all before but not been to the playoffs."
Plano left little doubt Tuesday would be the night for a postseason return.
The Lady Wildcats won 14 of the first 16 points in the match behind a blistering barrage of kills and never looked back, increasing their advantage to 16-4, 18-5 and 22-8 on a respective kill by senior Maddie Morell (who had eight terminations), block by junior Aubrey Davis and kill by junior Natalie Fazio.
"We wanted to get out to a good start tonight," said Audrey Landry, Lady Wildcats senior setter, "because if you look at our last few matches we haven't had the best starts."
Plano would also win the next two points courtesy of kills by Long to make it 24-8. Long had 23 kills on the night with many of them coming off passes by Landry, who had 19 assists to go along with 14 digs. Right behind Landry in the dig department was senior teammate Lauren Stahlman with 11.
"We've really been working on our connections in practice," Landry said, "and I thought they looked good tonight."
The rapid first set ended, 25-8, off an East error.
The second set (which Plano won, 25-12) would end the same way.
"Tonight was shocking and disheartening because our team is known for its energy and its heart and we just didn't have either tonight," said Steven Jones, East head coach. "The girls couldn't generate it and Plano just didn't let up; that's why they are one of the best teams in the area and the state."
Long showed why she is one of the volleyball scene's rising stars in Game 2.
East senior Sammy Myers registered a kill on the slide for a 1-1 score, but the rest of the set belonged to Plano as the home team rattled off 10 straight points on the serve of senior Alicia Hinojos with four of those coming off Long kills. Long directly represented 40 percent of the Lady Wildcats' points in that set with eight kills and two aces.
"I'm not quite sure what was going on in that game," Long said of the middle set. "It just kind of happened."
East saw more of the same in Game 3 as the Lady Panthers pulled to within 6-5 following an ace by junior Kendall Kolstad, but were forced to call a timeout after Plano responded with a 9-3 run that was predicated on multiple kills by junior Haley Harrison and gave the Lady Wildcats a 15-8 lead.
East wouldn't get closer than seven points from there as Plano poured it on with kills from Fazio, Long and Morell to establish a 24-14 lead and then finished the game at 25-15 following a termination by senior Mackenzie Daly.
Next up for Plano is a road match at 6 p.m. Friday against Plano West. A win over the Lady Wolves would secure the No. 2 seed for the Lady Wildcats.
"We feel like we need to win out," Long said, "so we can get that momentum going for the playoffs."
"I want to see us continue playing like we did tonight," Minnis added. "This is the team I know, the team everyone else knows, the team I hadn't seen in a couple matches."
While Plano celebrates its playoff berth, East still has lots of work to do. The Lady Panthers are on the road at 6 p.m. Friday against district-leading Boyd and host West Tuesday to close the regular season. East will likely need to win one of those to force a play-in match with Allen for the final postseason slot from 10-5A.
"I believe we can win those matches because I believe in my team," Jones said. "I'm not sure what team this was tonight, but it wasn't our team."