CALLISBURG — The Lady Wildcats did not treat a return trip to the state volleyball tournament as automatic. Even with so many key pieces back this season, Callisburg treated everything like they hadn’t been there before.
“Coming into two-a-days, it wasn’t starting fresh but it was a fresh start,” senior libero Halie Threadgill said. “We looked at it as a rung on a ladder. We talked about one rung at a time and climbing the ladder and when we got to the top that would mean we made it.”
The focused perspective led the Lady Wildcats to another outstanding season and puts them two wins away from a championship as Callisburg (41-3) faces East Bernard (26-14) in a Class 3A semifinal at 1 p.m. today at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
Boyd (38-7) takes on defending champion Goliad (33-9) in the first semifinal and the winners will play for the state title at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“Our approach was to go one game at a time and never get ahead of ourselves, looking at the regional tournament or whatever was coming up,” Callisburg head coach Angela Allen said. “Of course our goal is to go to state and win it. We talked at the beginning of the season about how it was going to be a different feel. There’s going to be an expectation now. There’s going to be more pressure and we’ve gotta be able to handle it.”
Callisburg has a done a good job of handling anything thrown its way. A quartet of juniors leads the Lady Wildcats in kills. Skylar Allen has 575 while Macie Satterwhite is at 393, Savannah Hott has 213 and Fallon Baucum is at 134.
Lindsey Bullard has handed out 1,215 assists while defensively Satterwhite and Allen each have more than 350 digs with Threadgill third on the roster with 273.
The Lady Wildcats’ run last season was stopped by Goliad on its way to the crown as Callisburg lost 25-20, 22-25, 25-18, 25-18, and finished with a 35-12 record.
Allen had 27 kills, Satterwhite finished with 17 kills, Hott chipped in nine kills and Bullard was named to the all-state tournament team after handing out 49 assists to go with 15 digs.
It was the program’s first trip to state since three straight appearances from 1975-77.
Callisburg lost three seniors from that group — Brenna Serna and Kelsey Williams were part of the rotation — and a core with so many underclassmen had a good shot at returning to the final four.
“I want to say we expected it, but if we start getting cocky, then we can become comfortable and we could have lost a match that ended our season,” Threadgill said. “As a team we try to stay humble. We never overthink the game.”
Callisburg advanced to state with a 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 victory against Beckville in the Region II final last Saturday. The teams held the top two spots in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 3A poll and the Lady Wildcats handed Beckville its first loss of the season in a re-match of last year’s region final that Callisburg won in five games.
“They didn’t even realize we were going to match-up with Beckville a second time,” Allen said. “There was a lot of hype around it and I think our mentality helped.”
All five of Callisburg’s playoff matches have been sweeps and the team is on a 19-match winning streak with 17 of those being sweeps — including all 12 victories in 9-3A action.
The only losses this season have been a sweep against Class 6A Region I runner-up Weatherford, a tournament loss against Class 4A Region II runner-up Krum and a tournament loss against Class 4A state tournament qualifier Glen Rose, which was avenged later in the season. That is the only loss Glen Rose has this season as it enters state at 48-1.
“I think the strength of our schedule kept us locked in,” Allen said. “None of them were satisfied to walk away from the state tournament without a win.”
East Bernard is one of the most storied volleyball programs, having made the state tournament 21 times and captured 13 championships. But the great history hasn’t come recently — the Lady Brahmas hadn’t been to state since 1994 before breaking through this season after making it to the region final in 2016 and 2015.
East Bernard outlasted another perennial power, Jewett Leon, 25-13, 23-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-10, in the Region III final. Three of their other four playoff matches were sweeps.
The Lady Brahmas are riding a 10-match win streak — the most recent loss was a non-district contest against Goliad — and have won 18 of their last 19 contests.
Senior Jessica Rabius is their leading hitter and sophomore Kenna Novicke is their main setter.
“That volleyball program has a real tradition. Everybody you face at state is going to be good,” Allen said. “They’ve got a lot of seniors in key spots.”