“This is just an amazing feeling. It’s obviously every coaches goal and dream to just go to state and I’m so excited for it. I knew coming into the year we had the capability to do it, it was just a matter of coming out, playing together and fighting for it and they did it.
Cinco Ranch had been in this position before.
The Cougars knew all to well what it felt like to go down a set in the Regional Final, they knew the pain of losing when you were just a step away from state and they weren’t interested in going through that again.
Cinco Ranch was on a mission Saturday and they accomplished it, coming from a set down in the Region III-6A Final to beat Katy ISD rival Seven Lakes three sets to one and clinching the Cougars an appearance at the state tournament.
“This is just an amazing feeling,” said Cinco Ranch head coach Danielle Wells. “It’s obviously every coaches goal and dream to just go to state and I’m so excited for it. I knew coming into the year we had the capability to do it, it was just a matter of coming out, playing together and fighting for it and they did it. They did it and these girls had that same goal. It’s so awesome.”
The first set embodied how the whole match would go as there was 10 ties in a back and forth affair. The Cougars jumped out to a early lead and were up 9-3, but Seven Lakes battled to tie the game repeatedly, but were unable to take the lead. Cinco went up by two late but Seven Lakes again tied the match at 25 before scoring two straight and taking it 27-25, taking their first lead of the match and getting an important first set win.
Cinco had a similarly strong start to the second set, but this time never let Seven Lakes get all the way back in it. Cino led 12-6 in the second set and that lead was trimmed to six different times, but every time the Spartans tried to come back the Cougars found the answer and were able to hold on for a 25-20 second set win to even things at a set a piece.
“We just couldn’t let that happen to us again,” said Cinco Ranch senior middle blocker Emily Killam. “We’re a good team playing from behind but with a team like Seven Lakes, they are so good and we knew they wanted this just as badly as we did. As soon as they got a set up it was all about resetting and getting the lead back. We went through this last year and I knew we couldn’t let them take the lead again because that can snowball into more. The team put the pedal to the medal and found a way to do it.”
Seven Lakes came out and had a hot start itself in the third set. The Spartans were the aggressor this time and led 11-6, but Cinco immediately evened things at 11. The Spartans went ahead by two after that but the Cougars fought their way back and took a lead, going up 17-14, but Seven Lakes made a comeback of its own and tied it three times. Cinco withheld the comeback and scored the last four points of the set to go up two sets to one.
Already up a set, Cinco imposed its will in the fourth set. The Cougars came out on fire and went up by eight points early in the set, not allowing Seven Lakes to ever get back into it or get close with a comeback attempt. Cinco kept pushing the lead and closed out the match with a 25-13 fourth set win to seal the regional championship.
“We wanted it and in that fourth set we could tell as we were racking up points that this was the set,” said senior outside hitter Makenna Loo. “The adrenaline was pumping and we were excited. Just the feeling of finishing that off and storming the court, it was such a crazy experience and one we all wanted so bad.”
It will be the Cougars first state appearance since 2009, when they made it to the state semifinals and it comes after the third All-Katy ISD Region III Final in four years. It was the fourth time Cinco and Seven Lakes had met this season and it took everything for the Cougars to prevail.
“It’s a mental game, these girls know each other so well, they play against them all year and then they play with them in club and they’re all friends,” Wells said. “It was about staying calm in the moment and doing our jobs. That’s what we did to get here and we didn’t change it. They did an amazing job of staying together, being mentally tough on every point and finding a way.”