Eight volleyball teams from Brazos Valley high schools have reached the third round of the state playoffs, each within one victory of moving into a regional tournament and three wins away from making it to state.
College Station, seeking its second consecutive appearance in the Class 3A Region III tournament hosted by Bryan, will play against ninth-ranked Lorena in Cameron at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The Brazos Valley is especially strong in the smaller classifications. Franklin is ranked third in 2A and will face BV foe Lexington at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bryan’s Viking Gym.
Top-ranked and defending state champion Leon and second-ranked Iola headline five BV schools in Class A who will be playing their regional quarterfinals Tuesday. Leon will take on Normangee, another area school, in Centerville at 6:30 p.m. Iola will play Richards in Madisonville at 7 p.m.
The other Class A matches involving BV teams will send Milano against Kerens in Buffalo at 6:30 p.m. and Burton versus sixth-ranked Shiner in Schulenburg at 6:30 p.m.
Regional tournaments are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, with the state tourney to be held next week in Garland.
“We’ve said from the start of two-a-days that our goal was to be playing on Nov. 23 [date of the state title matches],” College Station coach Stephanie Cone said. “I feel like our girls have done a really good job of taking in the expectations that have been put on them by my coaching staff, by the school and the community, and by themselves. They’ve risen to it.”
College Station (27-16) won District 18-3A, but the Lady Cougars’ tough early season schedule left them with a record not as gaudy as teams in 3A’s Top 10, including Lorena (35-8).
“The girls hate to lose,” Cone said. “Every time we lost in the preseason it drove them crazy and it drove them to get better. I think the competition we saw early in the season prepared us for what we’ve run into in the playoffs.”
The Lady Cougars and 17-3A champion Lorena both have swept their first two playoff opponents.
College Station has a balanced team led by middle blockers Mary Pettibon and Rachel Nelson, plus setters Haley Wagner and Keaton Schrank, who missed part of the season because of a serious knee injury.
The winner of the College Station-Lorena match will face either Tarkington or Hamshire-Fannett in the Region III semifinal round Friday.
Franklin (34-5) will be bidding for its sixth trip to regionals in nine seasons. The Lady Lions played Lexington in a non-district match in late August, sweeping three games.
“After going to watch them last weekend, I look for them to be a lot better this go-around,” Franklin coach Jessica Turner said. “We talk a lot about how anything can happen in the playoffs. I don’t think they’re taking Lexington lightly.”
The Lady Lions have strong attackers in Carrie Casey, Krista Stickney and Amby DeLeon, all averaging about 10 kills per match. Setters Maddie Nelson and Karli Mitchell run the offense.
Lexington and Franklin both swept their first two playoff matches. District 22-2A runner-up Lexington had two close games in both matches. Franklin, the 24-2A champion, has not allowed more than 15 points in any postseason game.
“It worries me that we haven’t have more than three-game matches in a while,” Turner said. “That speaks to how well we’ve been playing, but at the same time you want to be pushed.”
The Franklin-Lexington winner will advance to the Region III tourney in Longview to face either New Diana or Westwood.
Class A titans Leon and Iola have been expected to meet in a rematch of last year’s regional final in Longview since before the season began. Leon (42-2) will face Normangee, while Iola (38-2) takes on 22-A foe Richards, which won its first two playoff matches in five games.
The other matches that will send teams to the Region III tourney are ninth-ranked Beckville against Avery and Miller Grove versus Big Sandy.
With Milano in Region II and Burton in Region III, the Brazos Valley still has the possibility of producing three of the four Class A teams at state. Milano (32-6) will attempt to get past Kerens for a trip to the Region II tourney at Stephenville, where the Lady Eagles would face either eighth-ranked Lindsay or Collinsville in the semifinal round. Burton (26-5) can earn a short trip to the regional in Brenham by knocking off No. 6 Shiner. The winner will play Pettus or Yorktown in the regional semifinals.