Aubrey vball Gracie Bell

Aubrey’s Gracie Bell (2) sets the ball to her teammate during the Lady Chaps first round playoff win on Tuesday. Aubrey lost a region final match to Celina on Saturday.

MESQUITE — There would be no shame in giving credit to the Celina Lady Bobcats volleyball squad. After all, they are a sound defensive unit and possess an aggressive offensive attack.

Aubrey found that out the hard way on Saturday.

The Lady Chaps could not find their rhythm in their Class 4A Region II final matchup against Celina at Mesquite Horn High. Among a multitude of miscues and slow starts, they were swept in three sets (25-20, 25-18, 25-20).

“I don’t know if nerves got the best of us,” Aubrey coach Whitney Stout said. “Then it took us way too long to try to get going. We struggled to stay out of our own way, and then we didn’t do a good job of staying mentally tough in that first set, which is very uncharacteristic. I still thought we fought hard, and we played hard. We couldn’t keep the momentum for long enough.”

From the jump, Celina picked apart the typically strong Aubrey defense in the first set and jumped out to a 17-12 lead. The Lady Chaps would attempt to rally back later on and cut the Lady Bobcats lead to 22-19, but could not get any closer.

On the flip side, that Celina defense put on a clinic against the Lady Chaps offense by dominating the net and shutting down any attempt by Aubrey to gain momentum with kills.

“They’re extremely athletic and extremely quick on the defensive side of the ball,” Stout said of the Celina defensive attack. “They do a great job of pursuing balls and keep a lot of things in play. We didn’t take advantage of some things offensively that we could have taken advantage of.”

Midway through the second set it looked as though Celina would make it a runaway, leading 14-5 at point. Again, Aubrey would rally back and get to with four points at 21-17 but could not seal the set win.

“We didn’t do as good of a job of stopping points,” Stout said. “We would allow three, four or five points, instead of stopping it at three. Then every time we’d start to get the momentum, we just struggled to keep it.”

Stout and the Lady Chaps know that the continuous number of mistakes certainly did not help their chances at trying to get back into the match. It always seemed as though once they looked like they were on track, something would go amiss.

“One of the ways we did it earlier in the playoffs was we didn’t allow the other team [to score multiple points in a row,]” Stout said. “It wasn’t the same thing over and over. It’d be a net call, or it’d be a miss hit or a bad pass. It wasn’t consistently one thing or the other. Sometimes you try so hard to fix it that mistakes do happen.”

Sydney Garrison was a bright spot for the Lady Chaps however, racking up 10 kills and 14 digs to go along with a block. She teamed up with Annaleise Sevier who also racked up 10 kills, while Makayla Johnson and Abigail Robinson held the defensive end with 18 and 14 digs, respectively.

Saturday also marked the end of the careers for Aubrey seniors Gracie Bell and Lexie Temple. Bell compiled 30 assists and two kills while Temple finished with six kills.

No doubt, those seniors will be missed.

“We thanked our seniors,” Stout said of the Lady Chaps’ postgame meeting. “Especially Gracie, who has been here for four years and Lexie, who has been here for three years. This game stings and we didn’t play our best. Hats [off] to Celina for playing well.”

Aubrey has now fallen in the region final in back-to-back seasons following the loss to the Lady Bobcats. However, the goal now becomes how to advance past that point.

“Obviously getting back here is hard,” Stout said. “It takes a lot of luck. But now these kids know the expectation is getting back to a regional tournament and then to punch that ticket onto state.

“This is two years in a row we’ve been in the regional finals. The goal next year is going to be how do we get past that.”

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