Friendswood comes up short in bid for state berth
The effort and desire were present for Friendswood Saturday afternoon at Delmar Fieldhouse, but the youth-infused Lady Mustang volleyball team couldn’t quite stand up to a talented, experienced Kingwood Park squad.
Unable to match the consistency or firepower of its opponent, Friendswood fell to the Lady Panthers, 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-17 in the Region III-5A championship match.
The loss ended a rewarding season for Friendswood (32-15) while Kingwood Park advances to the state tournament in Garland.
“We got a little scared at the end of the third set, and the we started the fourth set pretty rough,” Friendswood senior outside hitter Lauren Hubbard said.
“We caught back up, but then back towards the end of the set we got nervous again. I think the jitters got to us. You just want it so bad, and you don’t want it to be over.
“If we could have relaxed, I think we could have beaten them, but we didn’t play as well.”
Friendswood never led in the opening set, falling behind 6-3. The closest it could trim the lead was 9-8 on a Hubbard kill, but Kingwood Park would reel off four of the next five points on two kills by Erika Williams and one from Yates Barker.
The Lady Panther bulge reached as much as 17-11 as senior Andie Unwin had three kills in that decisive stretch.
Kingwood Park maintained a healthy advantage a 22-17 before Friendswood made one final run in the set. The Lady Mustangs closed to 22-20 on kills by Elle McGown, Ashlyn Svoboda and Nicole Scott before Kingwood Park pulled away, capping the first-set win with a blast from Unwin.
In the second set, the Lady Mustangs charged to an 8-2 advantage, courtesy of three kills by Manbeck and one from McGown.
Hubbard had three kills and McGown added another as Friendswood remained on top a 15-12.
Friendswood maintained the upper hand, stretching the advantage to 22-16 on a McGown block before Unwin got red-hot from the service line, delivering three aces to help her squad close to 22-20.
McGown and Svoboda, however, answered for Friendswood which opened a seemingly cozy 24-20 advantage.
However, that comfort evaporated when the Lady Panthers won the next four points on kills by Erika Williams, Alia Williams and blocks from Katey Searcy and Libby Overmyer.
Friendswood, though, averted disaster and won the set, 26-24, on consecutive kills from McGown and Manbeck.
The third set was hard-fought all the way to 20-20 when Kingwood Park took control.
At that point, Overmyer hammered a winner, and then she teamed for a tandem block with Searcy for a 22-20 lead. Alia Williams then smashed a winner and Barker followed with another point for Kingwood Park to stretch the lead to 24-20.
Manbeck collected a kill for Friendswood to make it 24-21, but Alia Williams’ winner gave Kingwood Park a 2-1 lead in sets.
In the final game, Kingwood Park charged to a 5-0 lead and never lost it, although Friendswood closed to 11-10 on a block by Hubbard.
Leading 19-15, the Lady Panthers took firm control by winning six of the final eight points. Unwin had three kills and Alia Williams had two, including the punctuating winner to seal Friendswood’s fate.
“We looked like a young team, which we are,” Friendswood head coach Sarah Paulk said. “Our serve-receive kind of fell apart.
“We couldn’t get much offense going, and Kingwood Park has a great offensive team. We knew if we served aggressive and passed well, we would be able to defend it, which we did in the second set.
“Kingwood Park has a ton of offensive weapons. They can hit from every single position. They definitely had a lot of options.”
Hubbard, who ended her volleyball career with the match, says the future is bright for Friendswood.
“From the start, I thought we could win and go to state,” she said. “That second set really confirmed it, but then I think we relaxed.
“Tori (Weatherley), Makensey (Manbeck) and Ashlyn (Svoboda) are three awesome team leaders, and I think they can take the team back here next year.”
Paulk, too, is happy about the future.
“From the start of the year to where were are now, it’s a completely different team,” she said. “We grew a lot and the seniors did a great job.
“We have a lot of kids returning to help us get back here next year.”