VAN ALSTYNE — The difference between going home and making history can be a very fine line. The deeper in the playoffs and the thinner the gap will get.
The Blue Ridge Lady Tigers had been beating down the door of the region quarterfinals the past four seasons and been turned away every time. The Tom Bean Lady Tomcats broke through just by making it to the postseason.
In an all-district 11-2A match-up where someone's most successful run was going to continue, it was Blue Ridge taking advantage for a stretch in each game as the Lady Tigers defeated Tom Bean, 25-20, 25-16, 25-16, in a Class 2A Region II quarterfinal match on Tuesday night.
Blue Ridge (23-12) advances to the region tournament for the first time and will face Thrall in a semifinal at 5 p.m. on Friday at Weatherford High School.
“If we play defense, if we swing the ball, we can do a lot of good things. I don't think there's anybody we can't play with,” Blue Ridge head coach Rick Bailey said. “They've known they could go further than they've every gone. They weren't happy just winning district. That was great because it hadn't been done in forever. But there was more out there for them to do.”
Shelby Gerner had 16 kills and six blocks, Ellery Martin added seven kills, four aces and three blocks, Kelsie Kennon totaled 13 digs, three kills, three blocks and two aces, Skyler Gerner chipped in six kills and three blocks, Dakota Deckard handed out 13 assists and Taylor Langwell collected 19 digs for the Lady Tigers.
It was the best season in school history for Tom Bean (19-16) as the Lady Tomcats not only reached the playoffs but had success with a pair of victories over higher seeds.
“I think we've started something. You can see it,” Tom Bean head coach Dene Adams said. “They've started a legacy here at Tom Bean and no one can take that away from them.”
Baylee Stautzenberger had nine kills, 12 digs and three aces, Jillian Beck totaled 10 assists, 10 digs, five kills and four aces, Lexi Ellis put down five kills, Cheyanne Worley collected nine digs and Jewel Mason added eight digs for the Lady Tomcats.
The sweep came by virtue of three runs in each game that turned the tide in Blue Ridge's favor.
“We couldn't steal the momentum from them,” Adams said. “Every time we just couldn't do it.”
The Lady Tigers opened the match on a 9-0 run with Kennon at the service line. The lead eventually got to double digits at 20-10 and then Tom Bean had a bit of a push, getting within five points at 22-17 whichforced a timeout, but the poor start made the hole too big for them to overcome.
In Game 2 Blue Ridge scored five of the first six points and moved to a 13-6 advantage. The Lady Tomcats used a kill by Stautzenberger and an ace from Maddy Harris in the middle of a 6-1 run to cut the deficit to 14-12 and put the pressure on the Lady Tigers.
Blue Ridge came roaring out a timeout with an answer — an 8-1 run that saw a pair of kills by Shelby Gerner and a block by Cierra Spurgin which broke the frame open and put the Lady Tigers on the verge of a sweep.
Tom Bean was looking to stay alive and held a 5-2 lead. The Lady Tomcats were up 9-5 when the final swing took place. Kennon and Miranda Morgan had kills that capped an 8-0 surge and turned the four-point deficit into a lead the Lady Tigers never lost.
Tom Bean stopped the run with consecutive points but then Blue Ridge scored the next six, the last half coming on Martin kills sandwiched around one from Langwell.
Blue Ridge led 19-11 at that point and, while Tom Bean pulled within 20-15, the Lady Tigers closed out the victory to continue their historic run.
“It was a few two-minute stretches where we had the control,” Bailey said. “What they've learned to do is take advantage of those runs. Early in the year we'd just trade points with people. Now we can string them together.”