LINDALE -- A taller Royse City team gave Pine Tree's offensive attack problems, while the back end of that Royse City defense prevented PT from scoring with its service game.

The result was Royse City's 25-20, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20 win against No. 17 Pine Tree in Tuesday's Class 4A Region II bi-district volleyball playoff at Lindale High School. Royse City (27-11) scored on 10 blocks and allowed only two Pine Tree aces to clinch a four-game victory that sends the Lady Bulldogs to the area round later this week against No. 16 Red Oak.

Pine Tree, the District 14-4A co-champion with Texas High, finishes the 2012 season with a 29-8 record. Pine Tree was the only 14-4A team to win a game vs. 13-4A competition in the bi-district round. Co-champion Texas High (lost to Wylie East), third-place Hallsville (lost to Wylie), and fourth-place Mount Pleasant (lost to Lucas Lovejoy) were all swept by their 13-4A foes.

The Royse City quartet of Sara Verhagen, Aniah Philo, Tori Green, and Schelly Stone dominated at the net. Verhagen had 10 kills, four blocks, and an ace, while Philo added a team-high 11 kills and one block. Stone had five kills and four blocks. Green had nine kills and one block.

Combined with a back-row defense that prevented Pine Tree's strong service game from getting rolling, the Lady Bulldogs forced PT to play catch-up most of the match.

"I thought they played fundamentally sound," said Pine Tree coach Leven Barker of Royse City. "We didn't have many aces. One of our strong points is serving and getting aces off of those, and we didn't get many of those. I thought hitting-wise they made very few errors. I thought they played pretty sound and played good team ball. Hats off to them."

Royse City's MiKindzi Shanks set up her hitters well with 35 assists and three kills. Autumn Quinn chipped in with five kills.

Pine Tree's Emily Shelton. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)
Pine Tree's Dee Patterson. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Sophomore Sky Holmes led Pine Tree with 11 kills, one block, eight digs, and one ace. Senior setter Emily Shelton, who is committed to Tyler Junior College, had four kills, 30 assists, and nine digs, while senior Dee Patterson knocked down 10 kills. Senior Devin Assenheimer added eight kills. Senior Mackenzie Richardson had seven kills, one block, and nine digs.

Tied 14-14 in Game 1, Royse City took command with a 9-1 run. Pine Tree cut the margin to 24-20 but couldn't complete the comeback. But in Game 2, the Lady Pirates overcame deficits of 12-6, 15-9, and 21-19, getting late kills from Richardson and Holmes for a 23-21 lead. Stone answered with back-to-back kills, but Pine Tree closed the set for a two-point win, 25-23, that evened the match.

Pine Tree's Devin Assenheimer. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)
Pine Tree's Mackenzie Richardson. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"I thought at first we started off a little scared. A lot of these kids, even though they're seniors, they haven't had that role of being the main one to go to in a playoff game," Barker said. "I thought we settled in in Game 2. Game 3 we served too many balls out and we hit a ball out when it was wide open, and that cost us six or seven points. Other than that, our effort was really, really strong."

Pine Tree tied Royse City 9-9 in Game 3, but a service error and three consecutive blocks -- two by Stone, one by Verhagen -- turned the tide. That net play sparked a 10-2 run that gave the Lady Bulldogs control of Game 3, and they ended it with kills by Green and Philo for a 2-1 match advantage.

Pine Tree appeared to be on its way to forcing a fifth game when the Lady Pirates reeled off a 7-1 spurt for a 15-12 Game 4 lead capped by a Holmes kill, but Royse City came up with a huge 9-0 run, overcoming two PT timeouts to take a 21-15 lead. Pine Tree's last gasp was a 5-1 run capped by Assenheimer and Shelton kills that cut the deficit to 22-20, but a net violation prompted a 3-0 Royse City finish to the game and the match.

Junior Kennedy Sampson led Pine Tree with 24 digs and an ace, while senior Angel Jordan had 14 digs. Senior McKaylla Baylor and sophomore Kerri Johnson had two kills apiece.