By JASON GORDON
DRIPPING SPRINGS – The Hays and Cedar Park volleyball teams have been driving toward each other this season like two cars playing chicken.
Tuesday night, we get to see which squad blinks first.
The Lady Rebels and Cedar Park both took care of business in the area round of the playoffs Thursday night and will have a lot on the line when their much-awaited rematch takes place Tuesday in the regional quarterfinals at Austin’s Burger Center at 7 p.m.
Cedar Park knocked Hays out of the playoffs last season and the winner of this year’s match earns a spot in the Class 4A Region IV Tournament next weekend at the Paul Taylor Field House in San Antonio.
“We are gunning for Cedar Park this year because of what happened last season,” said Sydney Paradeaux. “We came in tonight and did what we had to do to get there.”
Hannah Ramsey and Paradeaux had 13 kills apiece to lead Hays to a 25-17, 25-17, 25-21 sweep of Vandegrift Thursday night at Dripping Springs High School.
Hays (30-15) started out strong and only trailed Vandegrift (29-12), which was coming off its first-ever playoff win, early on in the second and third sets.
“It was one of our best efforts of the year and that’s what you need in the playoffs,” Hays head coach Erica Walther said. “We played solid defense, we had a high kill percentage and we served well.”
The Lady Rebels set the tone with a 7-0 run early in the first set as Paradeaux hammered home three straight kills to give Hays an 8-1 lead.
Two consecutive Natalie Valdez aces and a Dezaray Garner kill that landed just inbounds sparked the Lady Rebels in the second set, and Ramsey’s kill on match point in set three sent Hays to the regional quarterfinals against Cedar Park.
Kathryn Wristen had 33 assists for Hays and Garner added 14 digs to lead the Hays defense against the Vipers.
Walther said she’s looking forward to the rematch against Cedar Park, which has a 38-7 overall record after sweeping San Antonio Brennan in the area round Thursday night.
“Since they beat us last year there’s a rivalry there,” she said. “They have great hitters and play great defense but I think we match up well against them. We know we will have to play really well to win.”
Ramsey said she hopes Hays is now one step closer to its first trip to the UIL State Volleyball Tournament. The Lady Rebels’ 2006 run to the regional finals is the farthest any team has advanced in the history of the program. Hays needs three more playoff victories this season to reach the state tourney.
“From day one our goal has been to make it to state,” Ramsey said. “Everyone on our team has that same goal and it would definitely be a disappointment if we don’t get there.”