HS Volleyball Playoffs: Lady Highlanders Win 3-2 Match Over Cypress Ranch in an Instant Classic

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 11/02/2023


KLEIN, TX -- The Woodlands Lady Highlanders won in thrilling 3-2 fashion against the Cypress Ranch Lady Mustangs in the Area round of the playoffs at neutral Klein Cain High School.

After their win against Aldine Davis, the Lady Highlanders entered the match with the hopes of advancing to play either Tomball Memorial or the rival College Park Lady Cavaliers.

Standing in their way was the Lady Mustangs, who were coming off a perfect campaign in their district on top of a win against Klein Cain in the Bi-District round.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Woodlands Head Coach Terri Wade elaborated on her team’s preparation for the match.

“We watched so much film,” said Wade. “[The girls] were feeling confident, and they knew where to put the ball.”

The excited and motivated Woodlands squad took to the floor in the first set and began a fight to claim momentum early.

An infectious energy spread through the Lady Highlanders in the early going, due in no small part to the sizable crowd that traveled to support their team. This energy saw the Woodlands build a lead behind sound play on the defensive end, setting up kills from the outside hitters.

“The girls were definitely setting the tone with their energy,” said Wade. “The crowd was feeling it, and they joined us against an opponent that matches our energy out there.”

Kills from Lady Highlander Juniors Payton Stroud and Ella Lewis gave the Woodlands a four-point lead as they hit double-digits, but the Lady Mustangs would fight their way back into the match after the early deficit.

A 6-0 Cypress Ranch run brought the match to a tie at 16 points apiece before another four ties would occur. Each score from one team was reciprocated by the other in a contest to edge out the opponent.

The contest was eventually edged out by the Lady Mustangs, who rode a 5-2 run to take the first set even after a Lady Highlander timeout, winning 25-22.

Another battle for points began in the second set, as both teams understood the potential to force a tie in sets or set up to put the match away with a win.

As they had done in the first set, the Lady Highlanders built a minor lead against Cypress Ranch in the early going, this time behind serves from Sophomore Megan Johnson and blocks on the front row.

But, the Lady Mustangs crept their way back on the scoreboard with precise kills into the soft spots of the Lady Highlander's defense. With the lead in jeopardy, the Woodlands adjusted by focusing on the block to keep the defense from being caught sleeping on the back end.

The adjustments worked in keeping the Lady Mustangs at bay while simultaneously keeping the team ahead enough to try and clinch the set. The set-clinching moment came when an ace was driven home to put the last point on the board in a 25-21 win for the Woodlands.

Now tied 1-1, the Woodlands attempted to take the window of opportunity they had provided themselves into a set advantage to close out the match.

The window remained open due to another solid opening from the Lady Highlanders. A five-point lead pushed the team forward as they hit double digits, but the Lady Mustangs refused to make things easy.

Blocks at the net and hits that targeted the Woodlands back row brought Cypress Ranch within two points of tying the set.

The Lady Mustangs’ spirited comeback was put on pause by another Woodlands scoring run that increased the team’s lead to six. Some miscues from Cypress Ranch, in tandem with the Lady Highlander lead, allowed the Woodlands to walk away with relative ease, finishing with a 25-20 win.

“What we needed most was our middles to be active, and they were,” said Wade. “And in order to do that, you have to have great passes. So our passers brought it.”

Cypress Ranch’s season was on the line unless they could find a way to snag the fourth against an energized Woodlands team.

Despite the motivation, the Lady Mustangs opened the set with total control. Hard-nosed blocks and misreads from the Woodlands gave Cypress Ranch an instant 5-0 lead.

Not wanting a winner-take-all fifth set, the Lady Highlanders strung together scoring runs that brought the teams to a tie at sixes. A lengthy series of traded points ensued, bringing in five ties.

The Lady Mustangs recaptured their momentum after briefly giving it up to regain the lead by three points. The lead encouraged Coach Wade to call a timeout to try and stop the rolling momentum that Cypress Ranch had built up, and it succeeded.

A concerted team effort from the Lady Highlanders brought the Lady Mustang’s lead down to one, only needing a handful of points to take the set.

Cypress Ranch responded with scrappy points to inch farther from the Woodlands and finally sealed the set on a violation from the Woodlands, winning the set 25-21 and forcing a do-or-die fifth.

“We took a minute of calm,” said Wade on her team ahead of the fifth. “We talked about what we needed to do, and they totally believed in it.”

Now, both teams’ seasons were in peril if they could not swing the momentum in their favor in the final set.

Tension permeated every hit in the fifth as neither team wanted to give an opening that may start a run for their opponent.

Blocks from the Lady Mustangs looked to be a deciding factor that boosted the team to victory. But like they had done all match, the Lady Highlanders adjusted by hitting across the face of the Cypress Ranch blockers into the space in the middle of the defense.

The newly adopted strategy worked to great effect as it pushed the Lady Highlanders ahead as the final score came closer to being reached. The fresh lead also reinvigorated the Highlander faithful, who pushed their girls towards an impending victory.

The victory would not be easily given up by the Lady Mustangs, who pulled out all the stops to try and bring the set back. Timeouts, aggressive blocks, and forceful swings were all attempted by Cypress Ranch in the hopes of regaining control.

But a block from the Lady Highlanders was the final nail in the coffin for the Lady Mustangs, who fell in the final set 15-9.

“It is quite a relief,” said Wade on the nail-biting win. “Sometimes the coaches and I feel like we played too. We gave them all the energy we had tonight.”

A short turnaround will be in store for the Lady Highlanders with their next opponent on the horizon and another intense match in store for them.

“The preparation and them having the confidence in it is what we will do,” said Wade on her team’s next steps. “At this point, it's not about your skills. It’s all about your confidence and knowing what you are facing.”

The Lady Highlanders will continue their march through the playoffs with a match against Tomball Memorial as part of the Regional Quarterfinals.

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