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Kingwood Park makes history - In more ways than one

Photo by Bradley Collier/VYPE Media

This was huge.

Like, 2007 Super Bowl huge: when the New England Patriots came into the game undefeated, but lost to the Eli Manning-led New York Giants.

Like, 2004 ALCS huge; when the Boston Red Sox tailed the New York Yankees 3-1 in games, and were down by a run in the ninth inning with two outs in Game 5 but Dave Roberts stole a base and launched a come back where the Sox won the game and the series, then went on to win the World Series.

Like, 2017 5A volleyball state title huge: when the top-ranked and heavily-favored Rouse Raiders held a 13-9 lead in the fifth and deciding set against Prosper, only to lose 15-13 in one of the most exciting finishes at state.

You get the idea.

Kingwood Park's three-set sweep (27-25, 25-22, 25-22) of top-ranked Lucas Lovejoy in the Class 5A state championship match WAS David beating Goliath - and even more so, like David taking Goliath to school.

The fact Kelly Miser's Panthers watched the Leopards take a 15-8 lead in the first set turned out to be the only highlight for Lovejoy, a Dallas-based school that had a huge crowd at the Culwell Center in Garland.

All the Panthers did was launch an immediate 15-7 scoring run to actually take a 23-22 lead in that first set, then finish strong with a kill by Finals Match MVP Elizabeth "Libby" Overmyer and a Lovejoy hitting error to win 27-25.

"We just always seem to start out slow," Miser joked aftewards. "We did that against (Canyon) Randall yesterday as well. Fortunately - and unfortunately - we've started slow in just about every match in the playoffs so we're used to making comebacks. The girls always find a way to overcome it and it's a testament to them. We took it away from (Lovejoy): we took it to them and outscored them until we won the set."

Overmyer said it was truly about "team" that helped the girls rally from the 15-8 deficit.

"In the huddle, we all just looked at each other and said, 'We don't want to go out like this; we don't want this to be how we finish (the) state (tournament),'" revealed Overmyer, who finished the match with a team-high 15 kills, to go with six aces, five digs

and two block-assists. "After every point we looked at each other and said, 'I'm doing this for you.' I want to play for you so we can be a state champion.'"

Junior teammate Alia Williams concurred.

"When you're playing for your teammates and not for yourself, good things happen," stated Williams, who tallied seven kills, three block-assists and two digs. "We (always) have each other's back. We've been through this before, being down in a match early on, but we (always) put our trust in each other."

They trusted each other enough to knock off the two "giants" of 5A Volleyball - Canyon Randall in the semifinals and the Leopards in the title match. There's going to be talk for a long, long time about this Kingwood Park squad in state volleyball lore.

Amazingly, despite the Set 1-closing 19-10 scoring run to close out the 27-25 win, Miser's crew dug themselves a hole and found themselves trailing 5-1 in Set 2.

Just like they like it.

Junior Erika Williams (who finished with nine kills, four block-assists, a solo block and an ace) immediately slammed a kill; senior Andie Unwin cranked out two of her four kills and just like that, the Panthers were back in it.

Lovejoy, though, didn't give up the lead easily in Set 2, holding on to advantages of 8-5 and 14-10. However, as Leopards' coach Jason Nicholson himself said after the match, "Because of the speed and athleticism of Ridge Point, we had to slow things down on our end and that made our offense (predictable). They were just too quick and took advantage (of our situation)."

Overmyer served an ace to give the Panthers their first lead of Set 2 at 17-16 and then - just for grins - drilled another one past the Lovejoy serve-receive to extend the lead to 18-16.

"When our serve-receive went (south), we were in trouble," Nicholson said. "It took us our of system and upset the way we did things (moving forward)."

Eventually, Alia Williams hammered a kill for a 23-20 lead, then Overmeyer planted one on the hardwood before Erika Willaims slammed two more to close out the second set.

The Panthers - much to the delight of Miser and coaching staff - finally took an early lead, grabbing a 10-4 advantage in Set 3. Lovejoy pulled out all the stops it could, getting some rhythm on offense a bit later and then closing the gap to two poitns twice (21-19 and 24-22).

However, Overmyer hammered the hardwood one last time and capped off Humble ISD's first-ever volleyball state crown - and the 2018 Panthers' legacy at the UIL state tournament history books.

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Kingwood Park High School - Volleyball
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Kingwood Park High School - Volleyball
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