Van Volleyball Cruises Past Gilmer For Class 4A Area Round Win
WHITEHOUSE -- Van got over the hump Thursday in its Class 4A area round playoff game against Gilmer.
The Lady Vandals became one of the first teams in the state to punch their ticket into the regional quarterfinal after three straight years of bowing out in the second round of the playoffs. They swept the Lady Buckeyes, 25-17, 25-17, 25-15.
"It feels awesome," Van head coach Kristen Reaves said. "This has been our rut game. This has always been the end for us. We really pushed hard to get out of this round. We're really excited and I'm super proud of the girls tonight."
It's another feather in Van's girls sports programs' cap. The softball team advanced all the way to the Class 3A softball state championship game in May.
Just 31 other 4A teams state-wide will join Reaves' squad through the course of the next two days. That will include the Lady Vandals' next opponent, either Pleasant Grove or district rival Wills Point. Those two teams will square off Saturday and the winner will coordinate a time, date and location with Van afterward.
Excellent serving, crisp passing and generally solid defensive play were the signatures of Thursday's win.
Senior hitters Hallee Carter and Bri Thompson led the Lady Vandals with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Thompson also recorded three aces -- all in the first set -- and held serve for six straight points to give the team a 12-6 advantage in the frame. Carter scored on an ace as well.
Freshman Alli Lloyd served up seven points on aces, including a run of four straight to give the squad an early 5-0 lead in the second set.
Sophomore M'kenna Daniel was a part of it all with 20 assists.
"That's our big thing," Thompson said. "We just try to stay consistent and keep it crisp when the other team makes mistakes. That's what we're going to do."
Things are looking up. The team swept Wills Point in both district meetings earlier in the season if it draws that familiar foe. However, Wills Point will have to get past a Pleasant Grove team which rallied from down two sets to eliminate a good Bullard team in the bi-district round.
Gilmer didn't exactly roll over in Thursday's match.
The Lady Buckeyes' key middle blocker Maci Ritter had a good game featuring a team-best nine points. Maddie Woodard and Jaci Traylor had been critical in all phases through the season and combined for 19 assists.
Ritter and Woodard will graduate in May.
Gilmer's undoing, aside from accurate hits from Van, came in the form of errors. It gave up 25 points on various mistakes to the Lady Vandals' 17 misfires in the three-game match.
Van used a 10-5 run powered by two kills and two aces from Thompson to break a 6-6 tie in the first set. Gilmer led as late as 15-13 in the second set, but six late mistakes in the frame cost it the win.
Van closed the match with a 10-4 run in the third set.
"Serving, being consistent, keeping the ball over on end, we really work on all those things in practice," Reaves said. "Being consistent and working hard are huge. I have three seniors, but we have a lot of sophomores and freshmen that are playing. They're doing an amazing job. My seniors have stepped up, but those young ones have really stepped up and made a huge impact."
Not only did Van advance out of the area round, it inched closer to matching the high of its softball season.
Carter and Daniel were a part of that team. They would love to reach the state's big stage for a second time in 2014.
"That helps a lot with the nerves," Carter said. "I've been through a lot of situations in my high school career, but the softball tournament was something I never experienced. Whenever we get into these big moments and the nerves start to hit you, it affects me, but I can cope with it. It's still really nervewracking to be at this level, but it's really fun."