All year long, Rouse High School coach Jacob Thompson has had to field questions about the "rebuild" of this year's Raiders' team, after it lost several key seniors that took the Rouse program to its first-ever state championship match in 2017.
This year's Raiders powered their way to a three-set sweep (25-17, 25-18, 25-21) of the Hutto Hippos on Tuesday (Nov. 6) in the Region III-5A Quarterfinals, played at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock.
The Raiders will now head east to the Delmar Center in Houston, and play Friendswood at 7 p.m. That match follows the first regional semifinal, which is Kingwood Park vs. Richmond Foster.
"I told the girls before the match tonight to go out and leave your own legacy," an elated Thompson said on the K-MAC Sports/VYPE Media postgame show. "Last year's team is gone. They've trained you, they've taught you, they've led you. Now, [it's time for you to] leave your mark.
"This year's team is a group of very proud young ladies. I told them they have had comebacks all season long. We've been on the wrong end of some comebacks throughout the season. But, these girls have worked hard to get where they are now. This was their match to make their mark."
They succeeded, using a balanced offense, while taking advantage of some timely Hutto errors, to overcome deficits in two of the three sets.
Player of the Year candidate Grayson Schirpik, a Rouse junior, led all hitters with 14 kills, while amassing a spectacular 21 digs. She also served up one ace and dished out one assist. Only UT commit and junior Reilly Heinrich had more digs (22). She added one assist and one ace to her totals.
Junior setter Kara Erfurth played a great all-around match: 32 assists, 13 digs, 2 block-assists, four kills and one ace. Senior Mackenzie Huntley assisted on six blocks, while pounding seven kills, making five digs, and serving up two aces. Sophomore Emery Reid stepped up for the Raiders, chipping in with eight kills, six digs, three block-assists and one solo block. Junior Madison Butler made one kill and one solo block.
Hutto was paced by 6-foot-4 senior middle Cadi Boyer, who slammed nine kills, made two solo blocks, and assisted on two other blocks. Senior hitter Kylie Becker made a valiant effort for the Hippos, tallying most of her nine kills in set 3, while assisting on one block.
"I think both mentally and emotionally, our girls made a veteran effort," Thompson remarked. "All year long, they've heard about last year's team. How [this year's squad] was supposed to get out of district, and maybe go a round or two in the playoffs."
"After the second-set win, I told them [before set 3], 'we've been here before, we've done that, let's stay focused. It's gonna get a little antsy, but let's work hard to close it out. And they did."