High School Volleyball

Batenhorst sister act plays on for Seven Lakes

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 12/11/20

Seven Lakes senior outside hitter Ally Batenhorst played for a state championship as a freshman alongside her older sister, Dani, a senior hitter at the time.

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High School Volleyball

Batenhorst sister act plays on for Seven Lakes

Posted

Seven Lakes senior outside hitter Ally Batenhorst played for a state championship as a freshman alongside her older sister, Dani, a senior hitter at the time.

Batenhorst wasn’t about to miss out on an opportunity at state with her younger sister, junior setter Casey.

The Nebraska signee had a program-record 35 kills to lead Seven Lakes to a 3-2 win (25-16, 25-16, 21-25, 24-26, 15-12) over San Antonio Reagan in the Class 6A state semifinal on Monday, Dec. 7, at the Merrell Center. The Spartans return to the state final for the first time since 2017, when they fell to Lewisville Hebron.

“We’ve talked for so long about doing this, even since the end of last season after what happened,” said Casey, referring to the Spartans’ abrupt elimination in the area round of the playoffs against Cy-Fair. “I just knew this was going to be our season. Ally’s gotten so much better and is so amazing. With her leadership, I knew we could get here, and I thought it’d be really cool if she could go to state with both sisters.”

No one was more thrilled than Batenhorst. A return to state has been on her mind since her freshman season. It’s been her drive to return with Casey since last season.

“I’m so excited,” Batenhorst said. “It’s unreal I get to go again with another sister. She’s been working so hard and doing so well, just getting better and better. As we’ve grown together, we’ve gotten this connection down and she’s become a really good player.”

Seven Lakes plays Klein (27-0) in the state final Saturday, Dec. 12, at 3 p.m. at the Culwell Center in Garland. The Spartans are 24-1 and ranked No. 4 in Class 6A in the state.

“Ally has been the leader of this team,” Seven Lakes coach Amy Cataline said. “She’s a clutch player and playing with so much heart. She’s been there before and knows what it takes. She’s telling the girls and also living it out. Her focus, her drive, her resilience, her poise … everyone’s following, and they want it just as bad.

“I’m overjoyed with her leadership.”

The state semifinal game was the fourth time this season the 6-foot-4 Batenhorst has had 30 or more kills in a game. She has done it twice in the playoffs.

Against Reagan, she was exceptional. She had 26 kills in the first three sets, mixing hard swings with soft tip points to keep the defense guessing. Batenhorst is averaging 7.2 kills per set in the playoffs.

“She’s a good player,” Reagan senior libero Maddie Correa told the San Antonio Express-News. “She’s got the height and she’s very athletic. We tried to stop her as best as we could.”

Batenhorst’s stirring performance came just three days after she blistered district rival Katy High for 28 kills in a 3-1 Seven Lakes win in the regional final.

“She’s a solid player. She’s crafty,” Katy coach Karen Paxton said. “She’s tenacious on defense. She’s got an incredibly high volleyball IQ. She’s going to get her kills and be an impact player.”

Batenhorst has a violent swing, almost as if she’s hoping to crack the floor every time she hits. Each time she rises to attack the ball, she said, she only thinks about how badly she wants to win.

But over the years, Batenhorst’s substantial growth has been mental. She’s more versatile, able to move along the net and get a good swing whenever she wants it, and smarter. She now knows to not just hit for power but hit efficiently. A soft swing or tip will score a point just as a hard attack will. Her hit percentage of 34.2 is, by far, a career best.

Batenhorst’s maturity is also represented in her leadership. She has taken ownership of this year’s Spartans.

Before, Batenhorst was comfortable taking a backseat to seniors. Now that she’s a senior, however, with one last opportunity to win state, she has made her voice heard as much as her example is seen.

“Ally is amazing,” junior hitter Emma Schroder said. “She helps me with everything, whether I’m making a mistake or doing well. She’s there for me. She has been huge for me as far as understanding how to get better and how this team can be better.”

Batenhorst credits Cataline for encouraging her to be more of a leader.

“I’ve grown so much since my freshman year and worked so hard,” she said. “I had always struggled being vocal and asserting myself as a leader, but over the years through club and (Junior Team) USA and playing here, I’ve grown into that.”

Players yearn to please Batenhorst. They see how hard she works and how badly she wants to win. No one has seen that more on a first-hand basis than Casey, an SMU commit who has thrived in her own right with 40 or more assists in a game three times during these playoffs.

“It’s so cool to play with such an amazing athlete. Ally’s my role model,” Casey said. “She works so hard and she’s so enthusiastic … she’s everything I want to be. She’s a true leader with her emotions and mentality, as well as her game. When she tells me, ‘Hey, good set,’ it means everything to me. I’m just so excited we get to go to state.

“She got second last time and I just hope we can get first this time. It makes me so happy to watch her excel.”

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