No. 6 Van Rallies for Four-Game Victory Over Bullard in First-Round Volleyball Playoff
TYLER -- An underdog Bullard squad gave Van a serious fight, but the sixth-ranked Lady Vandals rallied late for a four-game victory in Tuesday's Class 3A Region II first-round volleyball playoff.
The win pushed Van to 34-6 overall entering a second-round playoff matchup against Crandall at 6 p.m. Thursday in Terrell.
Van won Game 1 25-20 before dropping Game 2 25-18. The Lady Vandals answered with a 25-21 Game 3 win and erased a six-point Game 4 deficit to end the match, 25-23.
Junior BriAnn Thompson finished with 15 kills and three blocks, while senior Morgan Wilkerson dished out 39 assists to accompany five kills and one block to lead the Lady Vandals. Junior Hallee Carter had 12 kills and a block. Senior Rebekah Rogers contributed 10 kills and four assists, while senior Carissa Luther's seven kills and one block were key.
"Game 3, we just stepped up. Carissa Luther played so well for us tonight. She really stepped up and was a go-to person for us, which was so nice to see from her," said Van head coach Kristen Reaves. "They just played together. One of our things we work on is adversity and being down and being able to pull through it, and they did it. It was kinda slow, too slow for me, but they did it and I'm proud of them. I'm glad we got this first game out of the way."
Bullard got a strong performance from junior Mackenzie Fish, who led the Lady Panthers (22-16) with 13 kills. Senior Mallory McCoy had three kills, 19 assists, and one ace, while junior Rachel Kelley added three kills, 15 assists, and one ace.
Van pulled away from Bullard in Game 1, which saw a 15-15 tie turn into a five-point Lady Vandal win. But the Lady Panthers drew even 11-11 and 14-14 in Game 2 before stunning Van late in the set by distancing themselves for a seven-point win, which saw Bullard score the game's final five points to even the match.
Van built a 20-14 Game 3 lead en route to a 25-21 win for a 2-1 match edge, but Bullard started Game 4 on fire, assembling leads of 3-0 and 11-5, prompting Van timeouts in each case.
"I had already told them before (at 3-0 in Game 4) that I was not gonna let them lose, and I just repeated myself. I was gonna do whatever it took as a coach to help them win. If that meant getting on to them and getting after them, then that's what I was gonna do," Reaves said. "Do you wanna win or not? Do you wanna go home and not play again, or do you wanna keep playing? And so they responded I think pretty well."
Indeed they did.
Van staged an 8-2 run to tie the fourth game 13-13, and that run became 12-3 at 17-14 to prompt a Bullard timeout. Bullard briefly regained the lead, 22-21, but a service error helped stem the tide and allowed Van to finish the match with a 4-1 spurt.
Bullard senior Ashley Searcy had nine kills, one block, and an ace. Senior Maddy Davis recorded five kills, while freshman Haley Lombardo had three kills and one block.