The Friendswood Lady Mustangs (ranked No. 8 in the state) did something no other team this season had done to the No. 4 Pearland Dawson, but the Lady Eagles rose to the challenge to score a 21-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-17 win in their Region III-6A quarterfinal playoff match Monday at Alvin High School.
“We didn’t play our best game, it hurts,” Friendswood head coach Sarah Paulk said.
The Lady Mustangs showed what made them so formidable this season in their 14-0 District 24-6A championship run, as their multi-pronged attack proved to be a handful for Dawson in the first set.
Trailing 11-13, two big blocks by senior middle blocker Natalie Abowd (five blocks total in the match), a pair of kills from senior right-side hitter Madison Weisinger and four Dawson errors fueled an 8-1 run that saw Friendswood wrest away control of the opening frame.
“We came out strong and played our game in the first set, and then we just stopped, and I don’t know why,” Paulk said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort. They just started serving more aggressive, and we started doing things that don’t make us successful. We tried to rely on just one hitter, and we can’t do that.”
It was the first time all season that Dawson had lost the first set of a match.
“I told them when we switched sides after that first set that we were playing great volleyball, we were just making way too many unforced errors, we weren’t giving Friendswood the chance to mess up,” Dawson head coach Jason Karim said. “And I said, ‘If we can play the same way we were playing and cut the unforced errors even in half, we could regain control. I felt like they didn’t let the first set rattle them too much, and they came out and played tough.
After Friendswood won the first set, the rest of the match was all Dawson, as the Lady Eagles put Friendswood in early holes out of which the Lady Mustangs could not climb in the second, third and fourth sets. Leading the way in that effort was a superb performance by Dawson junior outside hitter Kynnedi Johnson (23 kills, nine digs, 4.5 blocks, two aces).
A big block and a kill by Johnson, an ace by senior libero Marisabel Torres (four total aces in the match, 22 digs) and a few Friendswood errors aided an 8-1 Dawson run that turned a 2-1 Lady Mustangs lead into a 3-9 deficit in the second set.
Friendswood got out to a 2-0 lead in the third set, but more errors, an ace by senior setter Sarah Kirk (31 assists, 16 digs) and a big block from senior middle blocker Jalynn Finnie (seven total blocks in the match) resulted in a 6-0 Dawson run that put the Lady Mustangs once again behind the proverbial 8-ball.
Johnson notched four more kills and two more blocks and Torres logged another ace as Dawson raced out to a 12-2 lead in the fourth set, and the Lady Eagles never looked back as they closed out the match and booked a trip to the regional tournament at Wheeler Field House this weekend.
The defeat brings an end to a banner season for Friendswood volleyball, as 2017 saw the Lady Mustangs win their first district title and first two playoff matches as a Class 6A program.
“They’re a great group, and I’ve enjoyed coaching them tremendously, and they play for each other,” Paulk said.
Friendswood was led by senior right-side hitter Faith Marabella (11 kills), senior setter Zeyanna Dhalla (19 assists), senior setter Bri McGown (19 assists) and senior libero Kylie Lockhart (25 digs, two aces).
Other notable performances for Dawson came from senior outside hitter Jordyn Sinnette (15 kills, 15 digs), sophomore middle blocker Aliyah McDonald (nine kills) and senior setter Amanda Wurster (17 assists).