By JASON GORDON
The Hays volleyball team wanted to keep its powerful momentum going heading into the playoffs.
The Lady Lobos wanted to end the season with a strong effort to carry into the offseason.
Both teams accomplished their goals during the last game of the regular season Tuesday night at Lehman.
With players and fans wearing pink shirts, shoes, bracelets, ribbons, pom-poms, and socks to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Lady Rebels and Lady Lobos put on a show early.
Lehman, which didn’t have a senior on its roster and came into the game winless in District 27-4A, looked like it was the one battling for playoff position in the first set.
The Lady Lobos jumped out to a 10-4 lead on the strength of a Cheyenne Morgan kill, and three kills and an ace from Aleeya Eskridge.
Eskridge had two dramatic kills during the run, one to end the longest back-and-forth rally of the match and another on a backwards hit over her head that traveled the length of the court and bounced off the Hays baseline.
Hays eventually pulled away, however, for a 25-18, 25-6, 25-16 win to finish second in District 27-4A with a 12-2 league record.
“We came out knowing this was going to be our last game of the season,” Eskridge said. “We came out fighting and we left everything we had on the court.”
Hays head coach Erica Walther said Lehman definitely surprised her team early.
“Lehman has improved a lot since the first time we played them,” Walther said. “Coach Cooper gets a lot out of her team. They had some really nice kills and they play scrappy defense. I think the future is bright for their program.”
Lehman had a parent night, honoring each varsity team member’s parents before the game.
“We’re still babies, and the only place to go is up,” said Lehman head coach Megan Cooper. “We’re so young we couldn’t even have a senior night since we don’t have any on our team. We have a lot of underclassmen that are hungry to be leaders. They will be ready to step up next year.”
Two straight Natalie Valdez kills brought Hays even in the first set, and Sydney Paradeaux added four more kills to help the Lady Rebs pull away to a 25-18 win.
Paradeaux kept her power groove going in the second set, with five more kills. Hannah Ramsey added three kills in the second set and Hays cruised from there.
The Lady Rebels will match up against San Antonio Lanier in the first round of the playoffs. The match will take place at the Lanier Athletic Complex next Monday, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
A possible second-round match would be against Vandegrift and Hays could potentially get a rematch against Cedar Park in the third round. Cedar Park knocked the Lady Rebs out of the playoffs in the second round a year ago.
“Just winning one playoff game isn’t going to be enough for us this year,” Valdez said. “We think we have a team capable of making the state tournament.”