75° F Tuesday, June 27, 2017


By Joe Harrington

Regional sports editor

Trailing 24-21 in the first game of the bi-district round match, the Westlake volleyball team could have easily conceded the set and moved on to Game 2.

But it didn’t work out that way Tuesday against Pflugerville in the first round of the Class 5A, Region II playoffs at Rouse High School. The Chaparrals completed a stunning Game 1 rally by scoring four consecutive points and eventually winning the first set of a five-set match win, 28-26, against the Panthers.

“We didn’t have a good start, [and] we were lucky to win Game 1,” Westlake coach Al Bennett said. “Coming back and winning Game 1 … having that win 28-26 was huge. Maybe that was the pivotal game.”

Pflugerville coach Jeff Coward absolutely agreed that the Game 1 win spring-boarded a Game 2 victory by Westlake , 25-19, and forced his team to rally for  two close wins, 25-20 and 25-22, only for the Panthers to run out of steam in the final game, 15-8.

“We see our Achilles’ heel – Game 1,” Coward said, noting to several District 16-5A matches that had similar first game results. “We were pretty fired up and to not close that game out was a big deal.”

Westlake jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first game, but Pflugerville scored the next four points as Pflugerville junior Madison Rigdon led the charge and eventually finished with a career-high 26 kills in the match. Pflugerville maintained the early lead before Westlake went on a 3-0 run to bring the score to 18-17. Following a Westlake timeout, Pflugerville surged ahead 24-21, but behind the serving of A-C Parrish, the Chaparrals took a 25-24 lead.

Westlake (23-19) scored the final three points to win 28-26.

Pflugerville and Westlake played even in Game 2 until Westlake broke a 16-16 tie with a 9-3 scoring run to take the set.

In Game 3, facing elimination for second time this postseason, the Panthers rallied. Pflugerville was eliminated from the playoffs a week earlier following an accusation that the program used an ineligible player. Pflugerville was reinstated Friday morning following a special UIL hearing and was reestablished as the fourth-place team in District 16-5A. Like the week before, the Panthers staved off elimination against Westlake in Games 3 and 4.

The Panthers took a 4-1 lead in Game 3 and trailed just once in the set. Down 13-12, the Panthers scored four straight points and never lost the lead. In Game 4, the Panthers broke a 14-14 tie with a four-point run to take an 18-14 lead that they didn’t lose.

“We played fantastic in Games 3 and 4 to put it to a fifth set,” Coward said. “You’ve got to love the fact that they battled back. They had a lot of heart and most teams would have melted right there. You’re playing Westlake, you’re down two games, you win Games 3 and 4 and you win Game 5 —it could have been special, it was so close.”

Westlake used a four-point scoring run to take a 10-5 lead in Game 5 and the Panthers never rallied.

Pflugerville senior Lindsay Oborny had 51 assists, while libero Kate Palladino had 21 digs.

Westlake’s Grace Weghorst had 24 kills, 24 digs and four aces. Setter Molly Smith had 38 assists.

The Chaparrals have now won their past two five-set matches and now move on to the area round.

“It’s playoff ball, you’ve got to go from here,” Bennett said. “We’re 1-0. Everybody else in the state is 1-0 who won tonight, so [the bi-district round win] is tremendous. They know they can believe. We’ve won our last two game-fives, so they know they’ve got to.”

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