GLEN ROSE – Tammy Clark refused to call it a curse, though some of the Lady Pirate volleyball players addressed it as such.
“No, I don’t want to call it that,” the Granbury head coach said. “A lot of teams would love to be in the third round.”
For a fourth consecutive season the Lady Pirates saw their volleyball season end in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. Burleson outlasted them at the Glen Rose Tiger Gym 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 15-10 Tuesday in the Region I quarterfinals.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget this season,” said senior Shannon Helm. “I’ve made lifelong friends with all of my teammates.”
The Lady Pirates finished with a 24-18 record, while Burleson (32-8) advanced to the Region I semifinals against Dumas last night. In the other regional semifinal, District 7-4A champion Aledo (38-5) was playing Amarillo.
Granbury finished second in 7-4A.
“Considering it’s my senior season, it’ll be hard to forget this,” Helm continued. “We accomplished a lot.”
Helm is one of seven seniors on this season’s team that also included numerous sophomores and freshmen. She said she believes next season’s team will be the one to make the deepest playoff run in school history.
Granbury has been to the third round five times in the program’s history but has yet to reach the regional tournament.
“I really hope they can break the curse, and I think they will,” she said. “They will be the ones to get through.”
It appeared as though Helm’s group would make school history Tuesday night. They got off to a strong start as sophomore Shelby Shade served the final two points, with the aid of kills from sophomore Aubrey Ezell and senior Alexis Carpenter, in a first-game win.
Then, after Burleson took the second game, Granbury again finished solidly in the third. Shade served a pair of points, Ezell served a point and had a kill, and senior Paige Holt had a kill and block in a 5-1 run to secure a two games to one lead.
Burleson withstood a Granbury rally in Game 4 to force the decisive contest. In that game, the teams exchanged the first 10 points before the Lady Elks used a 7-3 run to take the lead for good.
“Burleson started to swing more and we didn’t change,” said Helm.
“Everybody just wanted to win so bad, and we came so close.”
Burleson’s largest lead was eight points, twice in Game 2. Granbury’s biggest lead was three points, following an 8-1 run in the first game.
“There was definitely an ebb and flow on the floor,” Clark said. “We’d have a run here, they’d have a run there, point-for-point. Both sides were definitely fighting to keep their season going.”
Granbury got strong net play from the likes of the 5-11 Helm (14 kills), 5-6 Ezell (9 kills) 5-9 Holt (8 kills), and 5-8 Alexis Carpenter (8 kills). In the late stages of the match, however, the Lady Elks’ combo of 6-2 junior Holly Milan (13 kills, 9 blocks), 6-1 sophomore Mackenzie Hailey (7 kills, 2 blocks), 5-10 sophomore Madison Riley (11 kills) and 5-8 senior Abby Seamster (9 kills) began to take control of the net.
The win also provided a measure of revenge for the Lady Elks as they lost to the Lady Pirates earlier in the season.
“It was definitely different this time,” said Clark. “Everyone’s had their whole district season since then, and both teams came in much different and much better than that earlier match.”
Senior Blair Cowden was also fighting back tears as she said, “We could taste it, being on the brink of making history.
“We just had a few unforced errors, but we played a great match.”
Cowden agreed with Helm that the returning talent has a great chance to get through to regionals.
“And I’m going to be at their third-round match, watching as they make history,” she said.
Along with the younger talent already on the varsity, the freshmen won district with a 14-0 record.
“I’m expecting to see a lot of them challenge for spots on the varsity next season,” said Clark.
The seven seniors are the most Clark has ever had on a team.
“I do care greatly about each senior that comes through my program,” she said. “I see them grow as a volleyball player and a student. I’m right there with them through junior high on through high school. A third of their lives I’ve seen them enjoy this game.
“Our focus is always play hard today. I saw tremendous growth all season, and the seniors helped that happen by working with the younger players.
“Even to the end, we were fighting to increase our skills.”
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Class 4A Region I quarterfinals
Burleson defeated Granbury 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 15-10
Aces – Granbury: Blair Cowden 2. Burleson: Alana Hughes 2.
Kills – Granbury Shannon Helm 14, Aubrey Ezell 9, Alexis Carpenter 8, Paige Holt 8. Burleson: Holly Milam 13, Madison Riley 10, Abby Seamster 9, Mackenzie Hailey 7.
Blocks – Granbury: Holt 2. Burleson: Milam 9.
Assists – Granbury: Cowden 25, Ezell 23.
Digs – Granbury: Breanna Crain 28, Shelby Shade 24, Ezell 14, Amy Mendoza 13.
Records – Granbury 24-18, Burleson 32-8.