The Tioga Lady Bulldogs were impressive in their first trip to the 1A state volleyball tournament with a straight-set victory over the Leverett’s Chapel Lady Lions at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Wednesday afternoon.
The Lady Bulldogs were scheduled to play Bronte in the state championship at 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The Post-Signal went to press before the match began.
Tioga won the Class 1A Region 2 tournament over the weekend, beating Blum in the championship match Saturday at Central High School in San Angelo. The Lady Bulldogs beat Kopperl in the semifinals Friday.
Tioga won the first game in Wednesday’s semifinals match, 25-18, then followed that up with a 25-15 win in the second game before qualifying for the state final match with a 25-19 win.
“We started off a little bit timid,” said Tioga coach Mindy Patton. “I think about halfway through the first game we turned the corner and started playing our game the rest of the match.”
Tioga jumped out to an early lead in the first game when Andrea Perez put down her first kill of the match.
The teams traded points before the Lady Lions took a 15-12 lead over Tioga.
Four kills by Perez tied the score at 16-16 and Tioga never trailed again.
The teams traded points to make the score 18-18 before the Lady Bulldogs rattled off 7 straight points to put the game away.
Carly Hough started the run with a kill, followed by a kill from Perez. Nicole Hill then made the score 21-17 with another Tioga kill.
Perez gave Tioga a game point before the Lady Lions hit one out to end the game.
“We like to spread the ball around, but when she is on we are going to go to her. She was on today,” said Patton of Perez.
The Lady Bulldogs came out hot in the second game and built a 15-3 lead behind the hitting of Perez, and some inconsistent play from Leverett’s Chapel.
Tioga cruised to the game two win from there, with Ashley Rubi serving the Lady Bulldogs to the win.
The final game was close throughout, but the Lady Bulldogs never trailed.
“Volleyball is such a game of momentum. At this level, you can’t give up 3-4-5 point runs. You have to find a way to get the momentum right back, right away,” said Patton
Emma Stonebraker served Tioga to a 6-3 lead before the Lady Lions fought back.
Hough put Tioga back on top with a kill before the Lady Lions again tied the score.
With the score 9-9, Tioga jumped on the back of Perez once again.
Three kills and an ace put Tioga up 15-10, but once again the Lady Lions clawed their way back into the game when Tioga committed three consecutive unforced errors.
Stonebraker stopped the run with a kill, that was followed up with a kill from Destini Maness.
The Lady Lions fought back once again to pull within a point at 18-17.
Again, Tioga went to their power hitter to put the match away.
Maness set the ball to Perez time and time again in the waning moments of the match, and Perez answered with four kills in the final five points to put the match away.
Patton was impressed with her entire team, but really had high praise for Perez.
“She went to her a lot, and she really came through for us,” said Patton.
In just their third year of varsity play, the Lady Bulldogs find themselves just one win away from a state championship. It’s the third state tournament for Patton, who played in one as a player for Windthorst, and coached in one other when she was at Holiday.
“This is great for the school, great for the program, and it’s really great for the girls. They have really come a long way in the last three years,” she said.