GARLAND — Aubrey clinched a spot in the Class 4A state championship match by knocking off Bellville 3-2 in Thursday’s second 4A semifinal match.
With the victory, the Lady Chaparrals advance to take on Canyon Randall (39-8) in Saturday’s 4A state championship match at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Curtis Culwell Center, which hosts the state tournaments for all six classifications.
In a match of such importance, it felt fitting that five sets were needed to decide a winner. Aubrey looked to be on the ropes late in the fifth set, trailing 9-3 early on and 14-13 on match point. A key solo block by Annaleise Sevier, another by Sevier and Olivia Starr along with two kills by Sydney Garrison made the difference down the stretch as Garrison came away with the final kill.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even looking at the scoreboard,” said Garrison of her mindset on the final kill. “We were just talking amongst each other and saying, ‘Next ball, next ball.’ It was just one of those things, talking amongst ourselves and knowing the next hitter has to put the ball down.”
Avenging last season’s regional final loss to Celina, the Lady Chaps made their third-ever appearance at the state tournament after sweeping the Lady Bobcats in this year’s regional final. They also fell in the 2019 regional final round with a four-set loss to Kennedale.
Coach Whitney Stout said her team’s resiliency has made the difference in this year’s squad breaking through.
“Just experience, knowing they’ve put in the work,” Stout said. “Trying to stay in the moment, in the play and just really refusing to lose.”
Garrison, a Tarleton State signee, led the attack with 18 kills on the night along with 21 digs. Sevier added 15 kills while Meagan Szostek chipped in 10 kills. Makayla Johnson led the defense with 24 digs while Abigail Robinson added 12. Starr facilitated the attack with 34 assists and Baylee Hampton pitched in 11.
After the Lady Chaps fell behind 3-1 early in Set 1, five Bellville errors helped them pull ahead 8-4. The Brahmanettes rallied from a 12-6 deficit to tie the set at 12-12 and it remained a tightly-contested affair from there. The two teams were tied at 25-all before an Aubrey hitting error, then a defensive miscue gave Bellville a 27-25 victory.
The Lady Chaps answered early in Set 2, pulling ahead to a 9-5 lead. The gap narrowed further into the set as Bellville rallied to make it 11-9, but Aubrey answered with a 9-4 run to lead 20-13 and force Bellville’s second timeout of the set. The Lady Chaps finished it off with a 25-15 win to even the match at 1-1.
After some early back-and-forth, a 5-0 run put Aubrey up 7-2 early in Set 3. It weathered a push by the Brahmanettes to lead 16-9 later in the set. The Lady Chaps continued what would ultimately be a 9-0 run to lead 22-9, then overcame a late Bellville push to take the set 25-13 and lead 2-1.
“We just needed to believe in each other, trust each other and talk amongst each other so we could come together and just finish it,” Sevier said.
Another competitive start made way for Aubrey to lead the fourth set 8-4 after a 4-0 run, but a 6-1 Bellville response put it up 10-9. An 11-3 run later in the set by the Brahmanettes gave them a 25-18 fourth-set victory and sent the match to a decisive fifth set.
A hot 3-0 start to Set 5 by Bellville forced Aubrey to call timeout. Trailing 9-3 later in the set, the Lady Chaps came up with a 3-0 run to pull within three points. Aubrey tied it at 13-all later in the set before the teams again tied at 15. Some key digs helped the Lady Chaps fend off defeat.
“My main mindset was, do not let the ball hit the ground,” Johnson said of the final set defense. “Go for everything, make an effort and even if it is the last point and we don’t get it, at least you tried and made the effort for it.”
Garrison came through with the final kill to give Aubrey a 17-15 final set victory and clinch the match.
Heading into the state championship match, the Lady Chaps are focused on continuing to utilize the teamwide trust that has gotten them to this point.
“Do the little things right, trust each other and then the big things will take care of themselves,” Stout said. “That’s been our focus through the regional tournament and through tonight – Play together, trust each other no matter what’s going on. When they do that, they play incredible.
“As long as there’s a point left to play for, these kids are going to fight.”