FISCHER – Sixteen combined kills from senior Madison Certain and junior Avery Kalsu pushed the Dripping Springs Tigers to a 25-23, 25-17, 25-9 area round win over the Medina Valley Panthers Nov. 2 at Canyon Lake High.
The win catapulted Dripping Springs to the third round of the playoffs for a second straight season, and puts the team a win away from reaching the Region IV tournament for the fourth time in five seasons.
“Sometimes you want to pinch yourself. I wish we would celebrate a little more than we do, but it’s become the norm for us,” said Tiger head coach Michael Kane. “We never take anything for granted, but expectations around Dripping Springs have been elevated to a new level.”
Dripping Springs withstood Medina Valley’s initial and best punch during the first set. Adept defense by Medina Valley kept the score close, with the Panthers rallying from an 18-14 deficit to tie the set at 21-21.
Kane said Medina Valley’s defense was “outworking us a little bit.” Dripping Springs’ offense was also somewhat stiff in the early going, Kane said.
As a result, the Tigers were forced to make adjustments and mix up their offense. In the first set, Dripping Springs’ outside hitters scored only one kill on 16 attempts, hindered by Medina Valley’s defense.
Panther Christine Tschirthart finished with 20 of Medina Valley’s 53 total digs in the match.
Dripping Springs responded by outscoring the Panthers 4-1 to take a 1-0 match lead.
The Tigers maintained momentum and roared out to 12-4 second set lead. Preventing Medina Valley from orchestrating rallies allowed the Tigers to stay a few steps ahead and overpower the Panthers for a 2-0 match advantage. They did so by scoring 16 out of 17 first ball side outs in the second frame, which Kane said is “an impressive number, especially in the playoffs.”
Senior Madi Berkholz tallied 23 of the team’s 58 digs, while senior Dani Lebovitz and Alexis Haydt each notched a block.
On offense, juniors Sarah Nading and Kylar Raymond each had five kills, while Kalsu had 18 assists.
“When you can get those numbers, you’re going to beat a lot of people, because you’re not giving them a lot of runs,” Kane said.
Winning in straight sets also helped Dripping Springs keep some of its key players fresh. Kane said he chose to not play Mackenzie Murray, who was battling an injury, with hopes of having her play later on in the postseason.
“I was going to see how long we could last without her,” Kane said. “I almost put her back in so we can get this one out.”
With a possible trip to the regional tournament on the line, Kane believes his program has a good shot as any program.
“One thing I like is we’re a team that’s in the mix and have been for the last several years,” Kane said. “We have a chance and we have the althletes. There’s a lot of good teams in this region and I think we’re one of those good teams.”