Carthage Volleyball Bounces Pleasant Grove For Regional Tournament Berth
LONGVIEW -- Most East Texas teams are just happy to get out of the area. This massive region has not won a state championship in any of the state's six classifications since 2010.
The Ladydawgs struggled with Pleasant Grove until the back half of the first set, but then cruised to a 25-18, 25-15, 25-9 win Tuesday in the third round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Spring Hill High School. They punched their ticket into this weekend's four-team Region II tournament, closed the book on two third-round losses in three years and are very optimistic now just four wins from a state title to call their own.
"It means a lot," Carthage coach Leven Barker said when asked what it meant to represent East Texas at the regional level. "But we kind of feel like no one thinks we're very good. You know? We're really excited to go in there because the pressure is not going to be on us. It's going to be on the ones waiting for us."
The one first waiting for the Ladydawgs will be Krum in the regional semifinal round. If Carthage advances out of that game Friday, defending state champion Argyle or Paris North Lamar will be waiting Saturday in the Region II championship game.
All three Region II tournament games -- the two regional semifinals and the regional championship -- will be played at Mesquite's Poteet High School in the Metroplex.
It wasn't exactly a given that Barker's squad would win the game. It was just a net of four matches better than the Lady Hawks with two extra games in hand.
Pleasant Grove (31-8) had the misfortune of sharing a district with North Lamar and lost twice in league play. North Lamar accounted another loss in non-district play, splitting two pre-district matches with the Lady Hawks, and three of its other four losses prior to Carthage came to schools from classifications above 4A.
Carthage (35-6) endured seven lead changes to a 15-15 tie in the first set. Junior setter Carson Robertson broke the team free of that draw with four assists as part of a 10-2 closing run.
Robertson went on to finish the match with 28 of the team's 29 assists.
The Lady Hawks chipped in four points on offensive errors in the 10-2 run and the other two points came on blocks by Cindrasha Boykin and Faith Landreneaux.
"We started passing really well," Robertson said. "The sets were good. The hits were going down. We got into a really good sync."
Pleasant Grove recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the second set for a 4-3 lead. The Ladydawgs won seven of the next nine points for an 11-5 advantage.
When the Lady Hawks clawed back to make it an 11-10 deficit, Carthage went on a 14-5 run for the second set victory.
The third set was no contest.
Carthage earned 13 of its first 15 points offensively, cruised to a 15-3 lead and then clinched the entire match on a 10-4 run. Landreneaux scored a team-best five of the squad's first 15 points in the frame.
"We prepared for them," Landreneaux said. "The only thing we were really worried about was their defense because no one plays as well as them with what they want to do on defense. But we knew we had a good chance."
Alli Capps paced the Ladydawgs with 12 points. Landreneaux hit double digits as well with 10 tallies. Boykin's nine total points, including the game-winning spike off a set from Robertson, placed her third in team scoring.
Britton Anderson put up a team-best 10 points for Pleasant Grove. None of her teammates were able to add more than three points.
Anna Grace Miller recorded 10 assists in her final high school match.
Six of the Lady Hawks' 13 playoff roster players will graduate in May, including Miller. Anderson headlines the returning players.
Carthage has more volleyball to play before saying goodbye to its six seniors.
"The kids played awesome," Barker said. "Each year, we've been trying to get over the hump. This is the game we got beat out on last years. These kids, coming into this game, all day long I could tell they were ready to play. It was outstanding. Even when we would give up three or four points, we'd come right back and get them back."