By Pat Turner
Clark, Brandeis and O’Connor picked up where they left off from the opening half of District 28-6A’s second round.
Although two more victories put the three teams closer to the playoffs, the Cougars (36-3, 11-0), Broncos (26-9, 9-2) and Panthers (31-9, 9-2) aren’t getting comfortable. After all, there’s still more volleyball to play. Being one of the top three teams in the district provides added incentive for opponents.
With that in mind, the Clark, Brandeis and O’Connor are looking to be in top form.
Clark, which has swept all its district matches, showed its dominance in 3-0 wins over Jay and Taft.
The Cougars gave the usual balanced performance with Kara McGhee, Elise McGhee, Grace Gibson, Taylor McDonough and Micayla Reiland providing the majority of the kills.
Having reliable hitters to go with setters Ashley Hu continues to give the Cougars one of the most dangerous offenses in Region IV. In addition, Madison Cuellar is providing much of the defensive support.
“It’s amazing to have so many players helping,” Gibson said. “Everyone contributes. Every time we’re on the court we want to get better. We know teams are going to play hard against us. I think that’s what motivates us to keep playing our best.”
A big test comes this week when Brandeis takes on Clark and Williams knows others will follow.
“We’re still working on stuff little by little,” Williams said. “We’re not ever going to get comfortable. That’s not our mentality. We have a big target on our back and we have to keep working one match at a time.”
The Broncos displayed solid play in 3-0 wins over Stevens and Marshall. Maya Smalls, Chidera Ugwokaegbe, Selby Draker, Ava Magnabosko, Kristen Meir, Jalyn Gibson and Trinity Herrera played key roles in the sweeps.
O’Connor began its second round run with positive results as well.
The Panthers started with a 3-0 win over Holmes and avenged a first-round loss to Warren with a 3-0 victory.
O’Connor got the upper hand in the 25-16, 25-19, 25-13 wins by eliminating the mistakes that plagued the Panthers in the first meeting. That led to a powerful combo of hits from Sunnie Ozment, who delivered 17 kills, Gabby De Los Santos (13 kills) and Bryshanna Brown from the passing of Marina De La Rosa (23 assists, 20 digs) and Terez Chavez (21 assists).
Warren (17-19, 7-4) made a few runs with Loimata Tufuno and Camryn Anderson, but O’Connor was able to counter each time.
Brennan (20-15, 7-4) is making major strides in the playoff race. This past week, the Bears moved into a fourth-place tie with Warren after pulling out a 3-2 win over the Warriors and adding a 3-0 victory over Jay.
The win over Brennan proved to be a huge lift as the Bears rallied from a 2-1 deficit.
After overpowering Warren during a 25-13 victory in the first set, the Bears saw the tables turn as Anderson, Tufuno, Lexy Thomas and Bianca Rodriguez paced the Warriors to back-to-back 25-22 wins.
Brennan came back to even things up by using clutch hits from Kayla Lofland, who finished with 18 kills, and Gabby Arredondo and much-needed defensive stops by Lela Collier (29 digs) and Alex Torres (28 digs) to register a 25-23 victory.
That provided the spark for Brennan to finish things off on a high note. With Gaby Torres (25 assists) setting up opportunities, Lofland and Arredondo continued to produce, leading the way to a 15-4 win.
The Hawks (22-12, 10-0) remained perfect in District 28-5A, but they needed some nifty work against Floresville to keep their league mark spotless.
After soaring to a 3-0 win over Somerset, earlier in the week, Harlan was pushed to the limit against Floresville while squeezing out a 3-2 victory.
The teams exchanged 25-21 wins in the first two sets. Harlan gained a 2-1 edge with a 25-23 victory in game three behind timely hits from Ayanna Jackson, who finished with 17 kills, and Kiana Fallaha (13 kills).
However, Floresville countered with key kills in the fourth set to register a 26-24 victory and force a game five.
The Hawks found their consistency in the deciding set. Jackson, Fallaha, Arissa Willis, Victoria Thamas and Zion Williams made the most of their scoring opportunities on passes from Julie Arguijo and Jevani Hanspard for a 15-7 win.