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Dawson, Pearland shine in John Turner Classic

August 11, 2018

By Ted Dunnam

tdunnam@hcnonline.com

In the 76-team John Turner Classic, which features the elite of Texas high school volleyball teams, even a top-20 finish is certainly worthy of high praise.

So when Dawson first-year head coach Lauren Leth watched her team win six of seven matches and Pearland mentor Christian Dunn witnessed his squad post a 4-2 mark, there was reason to smile.

Also noteworthy is that each of those teams achieved those impressive marks with star players on the sideline.

Fittingly, the teams played their final match against each other Saturday with Dawson claiming a 25-13, 23-25, 25-16 victory.

Dawson’s 6-foot, 1-inch junior middle blocker Aliyah McDonald and Pearland 6-foot senior middle blocker Bailey Graves didn’t participate in the tournament because of ankle injuries.

“The thing I’m most pleased with is how we’re coming together as a team,” Leth said of her 7-1 Lady Eagles. “This group is a hodgepodge of players. We have a freshman on our team, several kids from JV that never played varsity, and we only had one returning starter on the court for this tournament.

“But every game that we’re playing we’re starting to put the pieces together. Today was the culmination of that.”

Dawson defeated Arlington Martin, 25-23, 22-25, 25-16 Saturday before winning the three-setter against Pearland.

“(Saturday), we were more settled,” Leth said. “The previous two days, we were constantly changing and rotating things until we found something we were pretty good with, and we ran with that today.

“The girls don’t crack under pressure, which is really exciting. We had several pressure situations and lots of third games, and the girls battled for every point.”

McDonald could return to the lineup soon, but Leth doesn’t want to rush something that can certainly wait.

“When she comes back, we’ll do a lot more of the figuring out again,” the Dawson coach said. “Our lineup will change again, but we’ll know a lot more about our personnel. It’ll just be about building our chemistry.”

As for Pearland, it was just as impressive on a similar level. The Lady Oilers defeated Granbury, Highland Park, Dripping Springs and defending Class 6A state champion Lewisville Hebron.

“We had match point against New Braunfels Canyon and couldn’t close it out to reach the final 16,” Dunn said of the 20-25, 27-25, 25-16 loss. “But we beat Hebron, and that’s always great when you can knock off the defending 6A state champions. We can take some pride in that.

“There’s definitely a drastic difference of where we were last year in this tournament to where we are now. I think last year we went 1-5 and finished 58th. We’re playing much better as a whole, and the team is mentally stronger.

“We were a little tight against Dawson early, but then we took the second set and played pretty good in the third. We have some things to clean up. We need to serve harder and pass the ball better, but overall we looked pretty good this weekend.

Graves will be out of action slightly longer than McDonald, but should be ready for District 23-6A play.

“I think Bailey will be out 4-5 weeks,” Dunn said. “It’s a bad sprain, but nothing high ankle or grade three. It just needs rest and recuperation and hopefully she’ll be back before district.”

***

Prosper captured the tournament championship, defeating Flower Mound, 20-25, 25-15, 25-17.

The set which the Lady Eagles’ lost in the final was the only set it lost the entire tournament. Prosper won seven straight-set matches to reach the championship.

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