High School Volleyball

FINISHED!

Class 6A state volleyball title caps off remarkable season for Batenhorst, Seven Lakes

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

GARLAND — A little more than a month ago, Seven Lakes coach Amy Cataline had a talk with her team.

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High School Volleyball

FINISHED!

Class 6A state volleyball title caps off remarkable season for Batenhorst, Seven Lakes

Posted

GARLAND — A little more than a month ago, Seven Lakes coach Amy Cataline had a talk with her team.

The Spartans had just returned from a 2 ½-week suspension of play due to half of the team having COVID-19. The abrupt hiatus halted rhythm and flow, and Cataline wanted to ensure her players that they were still the author of their own story.

“What did we want the headline to be?” Cataline recalled saying. “Were we going to throw our hands up because we had to go weeks not playing volleyball with half of our team out with COVID, or are we going to come back stronger and it’ll just be a part of our story?”

The Spartans turned what could have been a tale of what-if into an “adventure novel,” by Cataline’s telling, that will live on in history.

Seven Lakes defeated Klein 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-20, 25-22) in the Class 6A state championship match Saturday afternoon at the Culwell Center. The Spartans finished a remarkable season at 25-1 and handled previously unbeaten Klein (27-1) in an all-Houston area state final.

The Spartans are Katy ISD’s first volleyball state champion as they avenged their 2017 state final loss to Lewisville Hebron.

“I’m hoping people saw us and realized they could do it, too,” senior Mayo Olibale said. “It’s not about talent. It’s about hard work and work ethic. We’ve been working for this for so long, and I’m happy we were able to do it. I hope for all of the other girls watching us, it helps them to believe in themselves that they can do it, too.”

Senior outside hitter and Nebraska signee Ally Batenhorst was named the championship game’s Most Valuable Player. One game after setting a state tournament record with 35 kills in a 3-2 semifinal win over San Antonio Reagan on Dec. 7, she had 30 kills, 15 digs and two blocks.

For the season, Batenhorst averaged 6.6 kills per set. In the playoffs, she averaged 7.2.

“It was so much fun,” Batenhorst said of her high school career. “I loved every season. I love my teammates so much. We just had so much passion for the game and we all had the same mentality that we could go far. We played together. Finishing the season with a gold … I’m just so grateful to be a part of this program.”

Batenhorst, ranked as the No. 3 player in the Class of 2021, capped off an illustrious career in which she was named national high school freshman of the year, MaxPreps All-American, Under Armour All-American, and, now, state champion.

She totaled 2,384 kills, 1,389 digs and 254 blocks as Seven Lakes went 106-38, won two district championships, a state championship and made the state tournament twice over her four years on varsity.

Batenhorst, however, will be remembered as so much more than just a breathtakingly dominant volleyball player.

“I adore her as a person,” Cataline said. “She loves her teammates and shows it. She gave her whole heart this postseason. The girls followed. It’s fun to coach talent, but, man, it’s fun to coach a kid that plays with so much heart. She is a team player to the core, and you just don’t find that in many elite players these days.”

The Spartans fell behind 1-0 in the match and trailed 18-12 late in the second set, a 2-0 match deficit staring them in the face.

Instead, they lived what Cataline preaches: they fought and played with heart.

Four consecutive Klein attack errors made it 18-16. Two more Klein attack errors made it 19-19. Then Batenhorst took over with three kills. Olibale added a kill, and senior Katarina Teahan capped the movie-like comeback with a kill of her own to win the set, 25-22, and tie the match as Seven Lakes closed on a 13-4 run.

“It’s huge anytime you can get momentum back on your side,” Cataline said. “My girls are just resilient. They wanted it so bad. It wasn’t just come to state. It was get gold. That was our goal.

“It was talked about all the time, and their want and will won over.”

The Spartans dropped the first set by two points, unforced errors behind their undoing. Batenhorst attributed that to nerves.

“We were just so excited to be there,” Batenhorst said. “We had so much adrenaline. Our serve-receive was off; we were all over the place and got in our heads a bit. In the second set, we came together, fixed ourselves, and got out of that rut.”

Seven Lakes jumped out to a 16-9 lead in the third set and a 2-1 match lead. The Spartans led 15-7 in the fourth set and looked to cruise to the win before Klein produced its own impressive comeback.

The Bearkats rallied to tie the fourth set, 22-22. But Batenhorst delivered a kill, Klein erred, and Batenhorst delivered the Spartans into a state of euphoria with her 30th and final kill of the evening, fittingly off a perfect set from her sister and junior setter Casey Batenhorst.

“We got down a bit and I think we understood how much we wanted it,” said Casey Batenhorst, who had 52 assists and 12 digs. “How much we wanted it for each other. We had to fight back and get those points. That’s what pushes our team. The trust and fight. Looking each other in the eye, we knew we could do it if we all just worked together.”

Olibale added 13 kills and four blocks. Teahen had eight kills and three blocks. Senior Emma Schroder added seven kills and two blocks.

The Spartans broke through. For them, Seven Lakes High School and Katy ISD.

“We talked about it, we wanted it, we believed it,” Cataline said. “That 2017 team paved the way, when Ally was a freshman, and now it was about finishing. We talked about that often. They finished it.”

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