Clark sweeps Southwest in 6A bi-district
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Southwest.
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Southwest’s season came to a somewhat disappointing end Nov. 4 for nine seniors, but for the returning Dragons and their coach appear to have bright days ahead.
The senior contingent, which featured middle blockers Kassy Cruz and Candice Kelley and setters Dori Martinez and Yasmine Garcia, helped Southwest fashion a 21-17 record. Clark (33-10) eliminated the Dragons 25-14, 25-9, 25-17 in a Class 6A bi-district match at O’Connor.
“Three of them were starters, and those three have been with me from the very beginning,” fourth-year coach Erin Morgal said. “Some of them started out on the JV team and two were on the freshman team. It’s a testimony to their hard work and willpower that they came through it.”
The Dragons will welcome back a nucleus that includes sophomore Aashlyn Sulaica, junior setter Angie Aguilar and junior libero Brandy Martinez. Up front, sophomore Samantha Webb and freshman Eliana Ponce show promise.
Between seasons, Morgal will turn her attention to other matters. Her first child, a son, is due to be born in early December.
Garcia said she was grateful that the Dragons’ season ended in the postseason, with a strong third game. Although Southwest never led in the game, the Dragons overcame a 5-0 deficit to pull within 8-7 and 14-11.
“It’s going to be good for next year,” Garcia said. “We didn’t want it to end. We played as a team.”
Clark went on to defeat Reagan in five games Nov. 7 in the area round.
Only two of the area’s 10 playoff qualifiers advanced from the first round. Holy Cross and Providence each reached the TAPPS state quarterfinals.
Clark, behind exceptional blocking, controlled the first game and scored 10 unanswered points to end the second. The third game was in the balance until the Cougars put together a four-point run that provided an 18-11 lead.
“They took advantage of what we were doing to them,” Clark coach Kristen Daniell said. “They’re known for playing really good defense. Tonight, they were really good and hard-working. They were picking up our tips.”
Zoe Marin started the Dragons’ comeback by serving an ace. Garcia (5 assists) had a kill for a sideout that brought Southwest within 7-4. Then Sulaica (11 digs, 6 kills) delivered a kill through a block attempt. Clark’s lead increased again to five points, but Cruz whittled it down to 11-9 with a kill.
“That was one of our goals, to make playoffs,” Garcia said. “That was a good way to go out. It got to me a lot. I came to Southwest as a junior. I met a lot of people from volleyball and had a lot of fun.”
Kelley produced a sideout that brought the Dragons within 13-10, but the Cougars responded with an impressive hitting display. Gabby Ware drilled a kill down the line and junior middle blocker Jasmin Sneed (9 kills, 3.5 blocks) prouduced back-to-back kills followed by a block.
Clark freshman Maylin Garrett ended the match with her 12th kill.
Garrett slammed kills on three of the first six points in Game 1. Sneed scored points with a block in between. Ware added a kill as Clark stormed to a 6-0 lead.
“They complement each other really well,” Daniell said of Garrett and Sneed. “They’re both new to varsity. They put up a huge block and they’re good at attacking.”
The Dragons fell behind by a seemingly insurmountable 18-7 margin in Game 1. Consecutive Clark errors closed Southwest within double digits. A block by Megan Hernandez and a kill from Cruz kept the Dragons within nine, but a kill from Megan Pattison and an ace from Miranda Mendez on consecutive points kept the Cougars’ lead safe.
“We were making errors we don’t normally make,” Morgal said. “We were having a hard time getting good passes to our setters. There were a lot of balls that they normally dig that ended up hitting the ground.”
Clark’s blocking remained a barrier for Southwest into the second game. Sneed produced two more blocks and Lindsey McDonough had one
“We did a good job of blocking,” Daniell said. “That’s something we really rely on. That started us off with more consistency. It made it hard for them to run their attack.”
With Sulaica serving, Southwest reduced its deficit to 7-5 in Game 2. Clark capitalized on Dragons errors and McDonough’s block built a sizeable lead. With Ware serving, Clark turned out the proverbial lights with 10 uninterrupted points.
“It was a lot of our mistakes,” Morgal said. “A lot of times we were within an inch left or right of getting a kill. It took us one or two games to find our (comfort zone).”
For Southwest, Aguilar produced a team-high 10 assists. Senior Lindsey Calderon finished with two blocks.