WEST, TEXAS (November 8, 2018) — Familiarity isn’t always a guarantee of success, even though you’ve already faced – and defeated — your opponent twice earlier in the season.
Yet for Wichita Falls Christ Academy, it certainly didn’t hurt.
The Lady Warriors defeated Wichita Falls Notre Dame Catholic twice in a district that included last year’s 1A semifinalist Wichita Falls Wichita Christian.
Head coach Lisa Macha’s Lady Knights, though, benefitted from the tough district competition as they were just one of four teams making it to the TAPPS state volleyball tournament – the only one lower than class 4A – who were runners-up in their district.
But it wouldn’t be enough here in the TAPPS 1A state semifinal contest to overcome the senior leadership up front from setter Kelsey McClellan and middle blocker Danielle Okeke as Christ Academy advanced to their second state championship in school history with a three-set win over Notre Dame Catholic, 25-17, 25-16, 21-15.
“I have five seniors and three of those seniors are dominant positions so they’ve had a lot of experience and they were ready for this moment,” said Lady Warriors head coach Sara Lindemann.
Christ Academy returns to the TAPPS title match for the first time since 2012.
They improved their season mark to 37-8-1 and will face Faith Academy of Bellville – three-set winners over San Antonio Legacy Christian Academy – in Friday’s TAPPS 1A state championship here tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
Wichita Falls Notre Dame completes its season with a mark of 33-13.
Lindemann, though, said that her Lady Warriors are confident as they head into tomorrow’s match because of their strong non-district competition.
“When we play Boyd, who is number one in the state of Texas in (UIL) 3A and we play a Windthorst who’s number three in (UIL) 2A and we’re playing Trinity Christian out of Lubbock, who is the state champion four years in a row, that’s sets us up for success,” she said. “It only makes us better – even if we win or lose against those teams; we’re just playing a high level of volleyball.”
And her squad has felt the heartbreak.
“We got beat by (Granbury) North Central Texas Academy in the regionals (last year) and Notre Dame and Wichita Christian had to fight it out,” she added. “But we’ve lost at regionals the last three years so the gravity of this moment of getting to the state championship speaks volumes for my seniors who have worked four years for here.”
The Lady Knights fought hard the entire way and Lindemann wasn’t surprised.
“Notre Dame came in with a very clear game plan and they did their homework so they were prepared to play us tough and they did,” she said. “But we did our homework also and we stuck to our game plan and our strategy and it just came out that we were on top this time.”
In the first two games of the match, Notre Dame tied the score 13 different times, but could never mount more than a three-point lead.
Notre Dame junior outside hitter Reagan Macha put the Lady Warriors on their heels with three straight kills to knot the score up at 16-all in the first set, but Christ Academy – with senior middle blocker Danielle Okeke serving – ran the score to 21-16 before Macha powered a shot to the middle.
However, Christ Academy sophomore outside hitter Morgan Brasher drove a ball right at freshman Tessa Luig that she couldn’t return to go up 22-17, then served the Warriors out on a final three-point run to a 25-17 first match win.
The Lady Knights, early in the second match tied the score six different times, the last being at 9-all, but Christ Academy used runs of three, five and four points to post a second match win of 25-16.
Senior Kelsey McClellan and Brasher keyed two of those runs.
McClellan had four straight serves, after a power kill by Okeke right in the middle of Notre Dame’s defense, that the Lady Knights either couldn’t return or double hit the ball attempting to that pushed the Christ Academy advantage to 17-10.
With sophomore outside hitter Faylin Abernathy serving, Notre Dame cut the advantage to 17-14 before a pair of kills from McClellan and Okeke advanced the margin to 19-14.
Up 21-16, Brasher again closed the second set with three service aces that sealed the Warriors second set win, 25-16.
The Lady Knights battled to start the third set, tying the score at 4-all before Okeke deeked a soft shot into the middle of Notre Dame’s defense to grab a 5-4 lead that it wouldn’t relinguish.
With Okeke in serve, Christ Academy rattled off seven straight point before Macha buried a shot in the middle of Notre Dame’s back line.
The Knights, though, didn’t go away easily.
And that caught Lindemann’s attention.
“Notre Dame is a little bit younger than we are, but they’re right around the corner too to step up and play big,” she said.
Notre Dame went on a 9-3 run – including a five-point tear with Tessa Luig serving, scoring a pair of service aces high into Christ Academy’s back row – that brought the Lady Knights within one, at 14-13.
Three long returns, a double hit and kills by seniors McClellan and Okeke and Notre Dame was staring at an eight-point deficit, 21-13.
One last kill by Okeke to move the score to 23-14 was key to Christ Academy closing out the third and final set, 25-15.
By Jon Walk