Advance to Friday's area match
Getting tested has not been a part of the Barbers Hill volleyball storyline for most of the past two months.
But it became reality when Goose Creek Memorial matched wits Tuesday night at La Porte High School in a Class 5A Region 3 bi-district round contest.
The fourth-seeded Lady Patriots shook off a slow start and dueled back and forth with the top-seeded Lady Eagles in splitting the second and third sets.
Then Barbers Hill – behind timely hitting and an untimely injury for GCM – would pull away for a 3-1 (25-15, 24-26, 26-24, 25-15) win and advance to an area round match 7 p.m. Friday at Alvin High School against Summer Creek.
Barbers Hill (24-21) was led by Trinity Hennigan (13 kills, 18 assists, 18 digs), Sarah Lankford (13 kills), Kylee Kejonen (13 kills) and Kelsi Wingo (30 assists) while Jordan Burnett (eight kills, four aces, 27 digs, .357 hitting percentage) came up big time and time again at pivotal moments.
“We came out very strong, but were not able to maintain that intensity the entire time,” Barbers Hill head coach Kristin Goodman said. “We had to make up for not having a lot of good passes … we had to be a lot more crafty and couldn’t just swing away. When our middles are on it’s working, but it’s hard when they have such great servers and our pass wasn’t there at times.”
“Jordan is definitely a difference maker. When she is on, she’s on.”
Both teams were playing with large spurts of aggression, thus putting both in “out-of-system” runs of play, according to Goodman.
“The girls kept saying, ‘let’s stay calm,’ and I didn’t want them to be calm, I wanted them to be focused,” Goodman said. “I wanted them to have that same intense energy and freak out and do that craziness that keeps the other team on edge.”
The Lady Patriots (35-15) got top performances by junior outside hitter Taylor Kotlarz (22 kills), Kaitlyn Herrera (21 digs) and Zoe Martinez (23 assists).
“It came down to executing the hit,” GCM head coach Casey Veen said. “It was about who made less errors hitting-wise. We were giving instead of not causing havoc sometimes and sometimes doing too much when we should have made the easy play.
“The girls played their hearts out and so I can’t complain.”
GCM gave Barbers Hill all it could handle after the Lady Eagles stormed easily through District 21-5A en route to the title.
The Lady Eagles broke the first set open early on as Wingo served out six straight points with a mixed variety of speeds and placements to push her team out to a 12-4 lead in the first set.
The lead rocked between five and 10 points as Barbers Hill kept a stranglehold on its edge.
GCM managed to pull within 20-15, but the Lady Eagles scored the final five points of the set with Lankford wrapping things up with two unstoppable terminations off quick sets.
The second set saw the momentum shift as the Lady Patriots block became more consistent and got more penetration to close down earlier go-to shots for Barbers Hill.
Throw in the hot hitting of Kotlarz and GCM led 11-7 early.
Barbers Hill roared back to take a 13-12 lead, but it was short lived as GCM went on 10-6 run to go up 22-19.
As expected Barbers Hill rallied as Burnett and Lankford went toe-to-toe with Mia Bookman and Kotlarz and throw in a GCM service error and the set was knotted at 24-all.
Kotlarz broke the tie with a kill and the match was knotted up on a Barbers Hill miscommunication and subsequent hitting error for a second set Lady Patriots win.
Much of the third set saw GCM hold a 2-3 point edge and as late as 21-20 seemed on the verge of a breakthrough before Barbers Hill responded.
The Lady Eagles rattled off three straight points to go up 23-21 and went up on a Hennigan tip kill.
GCM tied it at 24-all on a kill and a Hennigan kill attempt that missed just long.
She made up for it a point later when she scored on another tip and a GCM ball handling error would secure a third set, 26-24, Barbers Hill win.
The Lady Eagles’ multiple faceted attack doesn’t hurt when trying to keep the opponent of balance.
“It was amazing, we all came together and we worked as one,” Burnett said. “That’s what we are built on: Being there for one another and feeding off each other.
“Coach told us to swing and that’s we did. We didn’t play it safe. Swing and mix it up and don’t be afraid. (Kotlarz) was amazing. I heard how good she was, but she was awesome. We had to adjust.”
The fourth set started rough for GCM as senior leader Easley collided with a teammate and hit the ground hard. She went out with the Lady Patriots down 4-1, but the Lady Patriots were able to forge a tie at 7.
Tied at 9-up, the Lady Eagles started to take control behind kills by Burnett, Lankford and Faith Guidry to build a four-point edge.
“(Kotlarz) was killing us and was on fire and I hate that their other outside went down,” Goodman said. “We capitalized on that in the last set and you do what you need to do to win.”
From there the win boiled down to a formality as Barbers Hill ended the match on a 16-6 run winning on a Lankford kill.
“We had an injury here and you got to say you don’t know what could have happened when your starter goes out and you put in a freshman,” Veen said.
“I am not blaming the loss on that. It was a great game, we played as hard as we could and we gave them everything we had. We exploited some of their weaknesses like they did ours. I think we could have gone five if we were in a different situation.”
Burnett was also disappointed GCM couldn’t finish with its full lineup.
“Them getting hurt, it was awful,” Burnett said. “I wanted to go against them with all their players fully healthy and see how we could really do. I am just happy we got this win tonight.”