Ridge Point wins regional volleyball championship

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The Ridge Point volleyball team entered the Region III-6A final four two victories from a return trip to the UIL state tournament.

The Panthers took the shortest route to Garland, even against two of the area’s best.

Ridge Point swept District 23-6A champion Dawson in the semifinals and needed the minimum again in the final, defeating District 17-6A champion Cy-Fair, 25-17, 25-13, 25-19 in the final.

The Class 6A state tournament is scheduled for Nov. 22-23 at the Curtis Culwell Center. Qualifying along with Ridge Point are regional champions Byron Nelson, Plano West and Schertz Clemens.

The Panthers (46-4) ripped through five regional rounds dropping only one set – the very first postseason game in the bi-district round against Tompkins.

A team with an ideal combination of talent and experience could clearly see the finish line.

“The seniors, they’re a special group,” Ridge Point coach Lauryn Bailey said. “There’s nine of them. They’ve been through all four years, almost all of them, together. They wouldn’t want to go out with anybody else other than each other. The excitement and the hype and the energy has been high since last night. I don’t know if they actually went to bed or not.”

Bailey, in her first year at Ridge Point, noted her players actually have more state tournament experience. They advanced to the championship match last November, defeating Plano West before a competitive four-set loss to Flower Mound.

That loss has helped drive the Panthers all season.

“Last year we didn’t win it all, so this year we really just want to work hard to fight and win it,” senior libero Nia McCardell said.

The Panthers received early offense from Lindsey Ogle and Reagan Rutherford. Cy-Fair (37-11) kept pace, tying the match three times and pulling within 13-12 on a kill by Alisa Cofer and a block by Alexis Robinson.

But middle blocker Claire Jeter, playing closer to full strength after an illness, sparked a 9-1 run to swing the set to Ridge Point. Two kills and a block by Alexis Roberson produced a 22-13 lead, while Roberson and Sydney Jordan combined for a block to close game one 25-17.

Maddie Hncir and Rebekah Portalatin helped Cy-Fair tie game two at seven, but McCardell served a 9-0 run that included kills from Jordan, Rutherford and Jeter. Randee Hennings and Roberson helped close a 25-13 game two victory.

The third set was more competitive, with the Bobcats closing to two points several times before Jeter sparked a short run for an 18-11 Ridge Point lead.

Cy-Fair got the momentum back on a tip and a block from Sophie Scott and a spike by Portalatin, who had a team-high 11 kills.

“This team has just kind of been a defensive, hustling team,” Cy-Fair coach Donna Benotti said. “They never give up. They always put their best foot forward. I was just glad to see they were able to finish this game up tonight, never giving up and continuing to compete.”

Two kills by Rutherford and a combined block by Ogle and Roberson were enough to set up match point for Ridge Point.

The Bobcats held twice on long rallies, but Kendall Sekula set Jeter for the winning spike, sending the Panthers back to state.

Cy-Fair concluded an outstanding season highlighted by an undefeated District 17-6A championship and their fourth regional tournament of the decade. The Bobcats swept District 21-6A champion Deer Park to reach the III-6A final.

Seniors Scott, Lauryn Bourne and Amari Alford closed their careers among the elite eight in the state, helping lead a team that progressed somewhat under the radar.

“We were never ranked,” Benotti said. “They came in every day, got better and better, and outdid all expectations. It’s a fun team that gave us all their heart and soul. They played as one and played for the Bobcats. I just can’t ask for more than that.”

Ridge Point’s large senior class will get one more shot at a ring after another impressive, balanced performance. Rutherford (15), Jeter (11), Tiana Davis (nine) and Roberson (seven) all ranked among the match leaders offensively, with Roberson, a sophomore, adding four blocks in her first regional final.

“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Roberson said. “The team really welcomed me when I came on. It’s really been such a great team to play with. We have so much fun.”

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