From entering the season fielding a varsity squad with only one senior to to missing a starting player Saturday night, the Clear Creek Wildcats volleyball team has had every excuse to give up on their 2020 season.
They hadn’t given up yet, and down two sets to one in their Region III-6A bi-district playoff match against the Pearland Lady Oilers, they weren’t about to start now.
“We pulled it through in the end,” Wildcats junior middle blocker Reaghan Thompson, who had a team-high 13 kills and 3.5 blocks, said. “We worked so hard, and even though we were down, we came all the way back and pushed and won."
Clear Creek battled back from the brink of defeat to claim a 25-15, 23-25, 12-25, 25-20, 15-9 first-round playoff victory over Pearland in the friendly confines of Carlisle Fieldhouse. It’s the Wildcats’ first playoff win since 2017, having bowed out in bi-district the two seasons prior.
“I haven’t had the chance to go to the second round since I’ve been here, so I’m looking forward to it,” Thompson said.
Coming off a second-set loss in which they had led by as much as 11-4 and a disastrous third set, Clear Creek had a back-and-forth fourth set with Pearland until a key run by the Wildcats saw them begin to regain control of the match.
“We were not playing well in that third set; everything kind of went wrong,” Clear Creek head volleyball coach Scott Simonds said. “And, we really should’ve won set two. At that point, I told them, ‘You guys have got to dig deep. We have to find a way to do this. It’s not just going to magically happen because they’re not making a lot of mistakes out there. You’re going to have to play better on your side of the net.’”
Tied 15-15 in the fourth frame, consecutive kills from Stratton Sneed kickstarted a 7-1 run, during which Sneed also had a big block. The run also included two big blocks from Aaliyah Ellis, the Wildcats’ lone senior. An emphatic Thompson block accounted for set point, forcing the do-or-die fifth frame.
Trailing 3-2 in the fifth set, Clear Creek reeled of five unanswered points — capped by a Thompson kill — to take over the final frame, and Pearland was unable to fully recover. A kill from Thompson was match point.
The Wildcats fell into a 3-0 hole to start the first set, but blew open what started as a closely contested frame by ending it on an 8-0 run. The serving of Emma Boland had Lady O's tied in knots during the run.
Boland’s four aces — including back-to-back aces to end the set — accounted for half of the eight points, and the serves that were returned played right into Clear Creek’s hands to the tune of blocks from Bella Woodard and Ellis, a kill from Sneed, and a Pearland error.
Aside from Thompson’s outing, other standouts in Clear Creek’s win were Brooke Morgan (12 kills), Woodard (11 kills), Sneed (six kills), Alli Shemwell (26 assists, 17 digs), Boland (13 assists, 11 digs), Briana Zamora (21 digs, nine assists), Hannah Berg (11 digs), Mia Sauers (11 digs), Ellis (three blocks) and Julie Bordeau (three blocks).
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team that has improved this much from the first match of the season to now,” Simonds said. “If we would’ve played that team in the first week of the season, we would’ve lost 3-0; we weren’t ready at that point. I’m really proud of these kids.”
Up next for the Wildcats is a Region III-6A area round playoff match 6 p.m. Tuesday against Deer Park at Clear Falls High School.