White Oak Reaches Regional Tournament For Ninth Straight Year With Sweep Of Franklin
MALAKOFF -- Franklin fans were ready to blow the lid off Malakoff High School's gym as White Oak took its first timeout of the first set.
This was their team's statement game. Franklin's 2014 season had ended swiftly to the Ladynecks in the Class 3A regional championship, but things were looking excellent midway through the first set.
There's a reason White Oak has a target on its back in each and every outing though. The Ladynecks rallied from a seven-point deficit in the opening set of Tuesday's regional quarterfinal match in Malakoff and subsequently took the match, 27-25, 25-18, 25-17.
"We knew that Franklin was going to be very tough," Ladynecks coach Nicole Thorn said. "They've got great hitters and they came out on fire. I'm very proud of my team for staying patient and being able to pull out that win in Game 1."
The victory allowed White Oak to punch its ticket to a ninth-consecutive regional tournament appearance. Jewett Leon will be the Ladynecks Class 3A Region III semifinals opponent, an 8 p.m. match Friday inside Longview's Lobo Coliseum.
Of the eight prior appearances, the program has advanced to the state tournament on six occasions. Including last season in Thorn's second campaign.
History looks pretty good, right?
"It has no advantage at all," Thorn said. "Last year is over, this is a new year with completely different teams and we have not played in that gym. We're going to have to take it one ball at a time and take care of our side of the net."
White Oak had problems on its own side early against Franklin. The back line of defense took a while to come along and the team committed five errors for Franklin points to face a 13-6 deficit in the first set despite once owning a 2-0 advantage.
Franklin's Hailee Haring held serve for six straight points at the end of the run.
The Ladynecks clawed back for a 22-21 lead on senior setter Cayman Sutton's aced serve.
From there, the lead changed four times before White Oak put the frame away. Kayla McCoy broke a 25-25 tie with a kill teed up by senior setter Cayman Sutton before Franklin gave up the decisive point by misplaying a setup attempt for a four-touch penalty.
That was as close as any opposing team has been from taking a set from the Ladynecks through three playoff matches.
Franklin only led twice more through the match. It took the first point of the following sets.
"We just kept calm," Sutton said. "It got tough, but we just battled through it. We came together as a team. That will help us in our upcoming games. When things get tough, we won't let up."
Sutton paced White Oak's offense with a match-best 27 assists in addition to four points of her own.
Allison Goll led the team in scoring with 11 points and also led in the digs department. McCoy and Avery Moore finished the match with 10 points, respectively, while the team scored 43 points of the 75 points it needed offensively. Franklin gave up the remaining 32 points on various errors -- 43 percent of the Ladynecks' total.
Mikki Cole led Franklin with eight points. Haring recorded 13 assists.
White Oak gave 24 points on errors through the three-set match.
Jewett Leon won't be a slouch in the regional semifinals. The team has only surrendered one set through its first three playoff matches while downing Newton, Brazos and Nacogdoches Central Heights.
It took five sets, and a two-point win in the final frame, for White Oak to dispatch Leon last season in the same setting.
"Our mindset is no one is going to get past us," Sutton said. "We'll give it our all and play like it's our last game every time. We all want it so badly. It's just our job to get it done."