Corsicana Daily Sun
Ashley Grace thought about it, tried to talk about it, and then thought about it some more.
“There just aren’t any words for it,’’ said the Corsicana first-year volleyball coach. “They were so excited after we won, it’s just beyond words. There are no words.’’
Well, there are a couple of words that fit what happened (even if they don’t embody the emotions): Playoff bound.
That’s where Grace’s Tigers are headed — to the Class 4A playoffs, and that means everything to Grace and her kids who talked about reaching the playoffs back in August.
“It was a goal,’’ said Grace, whose team played the equivalent of a playoff game Tuesday in the Corsicana gym, where it was do or die for Corsicana and Tyler John Tyler with some simple stakes — the winner headed for the postseason, and the loser headed home.
It was the loudest and biggest crowd of the season, and just about everyone was on their feet when the Tigers wrapped up the playoff berth with a sweep, beating Tyler, 25-20, 25-12, 25-23 to nail down the fourth spot in the District 16-4A race. The Tigers meet Waxahachie in the opening round of the playoffs at a site to be determined.
The crowd grew louder with every point as Corsicana put an exclamation on the match by coming back from a 21-19 deficit in the third and final set. Cecilia Lopez nailed some crucial serves on a five-point run that lifted Corsicana to a 24-21 lead, and after a brief two-point answer from Tyler, the Tigers celebrated when the Lady Lions’ final serve of their season sailed out of bounds.
Corsicana had big efforts from every kid on the court. Lopez’s only ace came in her 5-0 run at the end of the third set, and she had 12 digs in the match to help turn back Tyler. Kim Moreno had three aces, five digs and a solid 2.3 service-return mark. Teleia Braziel had an ace and 15 digs and Carley Cates had a big night with 20 assists, two kills, 14 digs, an assisted block and two aces. MacKenzie Lee was a force at the net and came through with four kills two digs and some timely defense at the net.
Sophomore Stephanie Willingham, who has become a force since coming up from the JV team, had four kills, four blocks, including two assisted blocks, and two digs and helped to set the tone in the first set, and Kara Schlenk had four assists and an assisted block.
Of course, the Biltz sisters, Briana and Carolina, helped led the way. Caroline, a freshman, had six kills, an ace and 16 digs, and Briana, a senior and the team captain, had 10 kills, including three in a row that lifted the Tigers in the second set and a huge kill in the third set that gave Corsicana a 24-21 lead. Briana also had 14 digs and an ace.
Grace was proud of every kid who played and even happier because of the ay her team grew during the season. They head to the playoffs with a 13-15 record, but most of those losses came early in the season in tournaments.
Even then, the goal was the same.
“It’s the goal of every team to make the playoffs,’’ Grace said. “No matter what situation you’re in, it’s important to make the playoffs. I’ve always thought we had the ability, it was just the mental part of the game and learning that part of the game that really changed.
“We’re better, way better now than at the beginning of the season,’’ she said. ‘We’re 10 times better because of the mental part of the game. Just staying in the game and never thinking we are out of it, and knowing that every point means the same, from the first to the last.’’
The growth on the court couldn’t have been more evident than on Tuesday. Consider this: Corsicana not only beat Tyler in a winner-take-all pressure cooker, but the Tigers swept their way to the playoffs. And to make the point even more vivid, think about this: Tyler had beaten Corsicana earlier in the season.
That’s how far Grace’s kids have come.
Like she said, “Way better.’’
It showed down the stretch when Corsicana turned its season around in the final two weeks of play. After going 1-5 in District 16-4A, Corsicana finished by winning four of its last five matches to reach the playoffs. The Tigers even played state power and district champ Lindale tough, and lost in four sets last week. Corsicana and Whitehouse were the only teams in the district to win a set from Lindale.
We felt good about the way we have been playing,’’ Grace said. “We should have won (two) sets against Lindale. We played well against Lindale and we can take that with us when we play Waxahachie. We had a goal this year to make the playoffs. There is nothing better than having a goal and getting it and accomplishing it.’’