Ridge Point made it 2-for-2 for Houston-based teams on the court of the UIL State Tournament Friday at the Culwell Center in Garland.
Lori McLaughlin's Panthers overcame a first-set loss to run the table in the next three sets, winning 3-1 (16-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-18 ) to earn the program's first-ever berth in the Class 6A state championship match, to be played Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Culwell Center.
The Panthers join their Panthers-namesakes from Kingwood Park (Class 5A) as Houston qualifiers for tomorrow's Championship Saturday at the state tournament. Ridge Point (47-5) will take on the winner of tonight's Flower Mound-SA O'Connor match for the 6A state title.
Meantime, Plano West finishes 37-10 despite an impressive season that saw the Wolves defeat previously two Top-5 state-ranked teams (The Woodlands and Prosper) in back-to-back matches in the Region II tournament in Huntsville last weekend.
"We didn't worry too much after losing the first set," McLaughlin revealed after the match. "We knew we didn't play very well and talked about it between sets.
"We enter each match with a positive mind-set. We set a goal of winning state this year; we accomplished smaller goals getting here, then won tonight's match to reach our goal of (playing for the state title). The girls have worked hard for this all year; they deserve this!"
After losing the first set by a 25-16 mark, Ridge Point fell behind Plano West 10-4 in Set 2 before launching a comeback. They closed the gap to three at 15-12, then launched a 11-4 run (highlighted by two massive blocks by Claire Jeter and a kill by Skylar Fields) to grab a 23-19 advantage. The closed out the set on kills by Fields and Reagan Rutherford to win 25-22 and tie the match at 1-set a piece.
The momentum had truly turned and even Plano West first-year head coach Justin Waters - who took over the program when the previous varsity coach left just a week before the current season started - could feel the change.
"We got away from the game plan in Set 2," a disappointed Waters stated after the match. "We may have been overconfident after the Set 1 win. Their serve and ball-control was great.
"We broke down on serve-receive; that slowed down our offense and made us somewhat predictable. That came back to hurt us."
The third set was even tighter than Set 2 as Ridge Point saw a 19-14 lead evaporate to the point where the match was tied at 21-all. Eventually Plano West took leads of 22-21 and 23-22 but the Panthers never panicked. A kill by Jeter tied it at 23-all; Jeter slammed home an overpass to give the Panthers a 24-23 lead; then Fields punctuated her performance with a slam to the hardwood for a 25-23 victory.
The Panthers drove out to leads of 12-4, 16-9 and 20-13 in Set 3, never allowing the Wolves to get settled in. Eventually they closed out the set, 25-18, and clinched a spot in Saturday's championship match.
Fields, a senior headed to the University of Texas, led Ridge Point with 19 kills; she added seven digs and three block-assists to her totals. Juniors Claire Jeter and Reagan Rutherford pounded out 10 kills each; Rutherford tallied 16 assists, 14 digs and five block-assists while Jeter added 10 block-assists to her totals.
Other Panthers to contribute included junior Kendall Sekula (16 assists, two service aces and eight digs); junior Lindsey Ogle (three block-assists, one assist, one dig and one kill); and, junior Randee Hennings (three block-assists, two digs and two kills).Plano West was led by junior Jill Pressly (24 kills, five digs and one block-assist) and junior Iman Ndiaye (20 kills and two digs).