High School Volleyball

BACK TO THE FINAL

Spartans headed to Class 6A state championship match for 2nd time in 4 years

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 12/7/20

For just the second time in 25 games this season, Seven Lakes was pushed to five sets in a volleyball game. And for the second time in four years, the Spartans are heading to the Class 6A state championship final.

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High School Volleyball

BACK TO THE FINAL

Spartans headed to Class 6A state championship match for 2nd time in 4 years

Posted

For just the second time in 25 games this season, Seven Lakes was pushed to five sets in a volleyball game. And for the second time in four years, the Spartans are heading to the Class 6A state championship final.

No. 4 state ranked Seven Lakes jumped out to a 2-0 lead, watched San Antonio Reagan rally impressively to tie the game, and then put away the Rattlers to win their Class 6A state semifinal 3-2 (25-16, 25-16, 21-25, 24-26, 15-12) on Monday evening at the Merrell Center.

Seven Lakes improved to 24-1 and will play the winner of Tuesday’s Klein-Flower Mound semifinal in the state final Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Culwell Center in Garland. The Spartans are in the state championship again after falling to Lewisville Hebron in the state final three years ago.

“In 2017, this team was able to watch that team go to state,” said Seven Lakes coach Amy Cataline, who has led teams to the state final in 2015 (with Fort Bend Austin), 2017 and now 2020. “To be able to continue that legacy and go back to the state final, they want a different outcome so bad. That’s what makes them special. They want gold, not silver.

“They’re playing for not only themselves, but for our school.”

They’re also playing for their coach. Cataline, extremely beloved and appreciated by her players, has been oh-so-close to winning it all. In her two trips to the state final, Hebron won each time.

“We’re not done yet,” senior Mayo Olibale said. “That’s the goal. We want to do this for Coach Cat. She’s been to state so many times and we want to win it for her. As long as we knock off the unforced errors and keep our side under control, I know we can win.”

Senior outside hitter and Nebraska signee Ally Batenhorst set a school record with 35 kills to lead Seven Lakes. She broke her previous record of 32.

“Leave everything I have out on the court, go as hard as I can, give everything I have,” Batenhorst said of her play. “It’s my senior year and I would’ve given anything to go back to the state championship.”

It was the fourth time this season that Batenhorst had 30 or more kills in a game. She had 10 kills in the first set, eight apiece in the next two, five in the fourth, and four in the fifth.

“It was intense, back-and-forth, super close,” Batenhorst said. “I think we started off really strong and just got too comfortable in the third set. We got down a bit and we had to pick each other up and fight through it. It was long, it was hard, it was exhausting, but we overcame. We really fought as much as we could.”

Seven Lakes senior Peyton Sykes, one of the team’s top servers and a strong hitter, went down early in the first set due to a leg injury and did not return to the game. It was a tough sight for the Spartans to watch as she had to be helped off the court.

Still, Seven Lakes stayed focused. Sophomore Grace Lanier and junior Mia Blum stepped up in place of Sykes and served and played admirably along the back row.

Junior Emma Schroder (eight kills) and Olibale (four kills) took advantage of attack opportunities, and junior setter Casey Batenhorst brilliantly spread the ball around to keep Reagan from homing in on her older sister. Senior Katarina Teahen was critical with three kills and two blocks in the fourth set.

“I have confidence in everyone I set,” Casey Batenhorst said. “Everyone has excelled in the past few years on this team … when I can set Emma, Mayo, Kat, I know they can get a kill. I know what they need. Spreading out the offense has been huge so that defenses can’t camp out on Ally.”

Defensively, senior libero Kailey Bickel was spectacular closing gaps and keeping balls alive that looked to be easy points for Reagan. Olibale was dominant closing blocks. Reagan 6-foot-2 senior Nyah Anderson had 25 kills but did not have consistent support around her. Fourteen of Anderson’s 25 kills came in the third and fifth sets as she was relatively quiet in the other three.

“No. 15 (Anderson) is a really talented hitter, but in practices we go up against Ally, top four in the nation,” Bickel said. “Just playing against Ally in practice gives us confidence that we can stop any hitter.”

It was a great game, intense and competitive. But through it all, even with all of Reagan’s spectacular rallies and the dramatics late in the game, Cataline never saw her team waver. She saw a team that has been through a lot already this season, including a shutdown because of COVID-19 and a slew of injuries and knew had to respond to adversity.

When her team’s season was on the line, her team rose to the task.

“It was the poise we had,” Cataline said. “One of our starters goes down in the first set, and we didn’t get rattled. We stayed with it. We had ups and downs and lead changes, and we kept rolling. The whole match, I could sense we were in control.”

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