ANDERSON — If the College Station volleyball team had voted on Election Day, it would have been to play someone other than Montgomery Lake Creek or at least face the Lady Lions on another day.
Lake Creek battled its way to a 25-18, 25-10, 25-23 win in the Class 5A Region III quarterfinals Tuesday night at Anderson-Shiro High School. Lake Creek (28-17) advances to the regional semifinals for the second time in school history and will face Fulshear on Friday at Katy’s Merrell Center.
The Lady Cougars (30-17) had faced the Lady Lions three times earlier this season, claiming a 2-1 victory in an out-of-district tournament and split eight sets and two games in district play 21-5A, but the fourth encounter was all Lake Creek, which pulled away midway through the first set.
Lake Creek senior Payton Woods picked up a pair of wins early to give her 500 for the season. Sam Houston State rookie finished with 16 kills and four blocks, while sophomore Peyton McKee added 12 kills, preventing College Station from building momentum.
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“They were the better team tonight. I mean it really was that simple,” said College Station coach Ashley Davis.
The Lady Cougars were the most competitive in the third set as they reduced errors. Lake Creek scored three straight points to break a 16-16 tie, forcing College Station to take a timeout. The Lady Cougars got a kill from senior Riley Newton and a block from junior Avery Psencik to shoot within one, but Lake Creek made a block-fueled 4-1 run and kill by Woods for a lead. from 23-19.
College Station tied the set at 23 with their best streak of the game. Lake Creek made three errors and then College Station freshman Blair Thiebaud tied the score with a block, much to the delight of the large contingent of Lady Cougar fans. But Lake Creek senior Rylee McAlexander hit a well-placed soft shot for a kill, and senior Lauren Hilty closed it with another kill.
“One of the things we talked about was never giving in,” Davis said. “I thought we showed it in the third set. Things weren’t going our way, but [Lake Creek] performed very well. Their exterior dominated the game and they served us hard.
Lake Creek had five aces and only two service errors.
College Station’s serve and net play allowed him to sweep Killeen Ellison in the bi-district and defeat 23-3A champion Pflugerville Hendrickson in a four-set zone victory, but Lake Creek was well prepared for the game. of hard service from the Lady Cougars. College Station had four aces and six service errors.
“We served them well and they did pretty well,” Davis said. “I mean, that’s how it goes sometimes. We just didn’t run and run, and we know it. They did some really good things and kept us out of the system. It’s a bit like our bread and butter. Sometimes when you’re playing teams that are the same as you, if it’s not your night, it’s not your night.
It was only the third time the Lady Cougars, who finished third in 21-5A behind Brenham and Lake Creek, lost a game 3-0. The other times were against The Woodlands and Tomball, who met in the Class 6A Region II quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
It was sweet revenge for the Lake Creek senior seven, who lost last year to College Station in the regional quarterfinals in a five-set thriller. Lake Creek coach Taryn Jordan said the game plan was to limit the spin of outside hitters Psencik and Marcella Deer.
“Last time we played them, they used our block a lot,” Jordan said. “So we were prepared not to let that happen again. And then we wanted Payton Woods to match [Newton]because she’s such a powerful hitter on the right side for them.
Offensively, Lake Creek combined well-placed shots with their power play.
Lake Creek’s overall effort prevented College Station’s senior class of Ava Martindale, Deer, Jaeden McMillin and Newton from earning a third straight trip to regionals.
Martindale had 11 digs in his last game, while Newton and Deer each had six kills.
“They were huge pieces for us,” Davis said. “Libero Ava Martindale is going to UTEP. Riley Newton was a starter for three years on the right side. Marcella Deer was another bowling hitter. These will be big holes and shoes to fill for sure.
The good news for College Station is junior outside hitter Avery Psencik, who set the school record for single-season kills and had a team record 10 kills on Tuesday, returns with freshman setter Thiebaud and juniors Carson Thiebaud (five eliminations), Avery Psencik (seven recoveries), Camryn Kimes, Addison Jennings and Emily Huchington, all of whom saw plenty of playing time in Davis’ first season.
“What’s exciting is that there’s someone else waiting to step onto the court in those places,” Davis said. “We’re just going to start our rebuilding of this. Maybe I’ll give them a week off. We will see.”