Powerful Ridge Point sweeps Dawson to reach state tournament
Unable to cope with the thunderous kills of Fort Bend Ridge Point’s imposing front line, the Dawson volleyball team saw its season come to an end Saturday at Wheeler Fieldhouse.
Fueled by powerful winners from 6-foot, 3-inch Skylar Fields, 6-2 Claire Jeter and 6-foot Reagan Rutherford, Ridge Point (46-5) cruised to a 25-20, 25-21, 25-18 victory in the Region III-6A championship.
Dawson (40-9) scrambled to retrieve numerous kill attempts by the Lady Panthers, but Ridge Point’s resiliency and intimidating replies proved too much for first-year head coach Lauren Leth’s team.
Also hurting Dawson’s cause were a pair of controversial calls - one in the first set and one in the second set - which were each overturned and awarded to Ridge Point.
The first one would have pulled Dawson into a 19-19 tie in the opening set, but Ridge Point benefitted from the officials’ discussion and took a 20-18 lead, fueling a four-point run that opened a 23-18 edge.
That momentum shift came at a crucial time and too late in the set for Dawson to recover.
In the second set, Dawson scored another point which apparently pulled it within 16-15. Again, a discussion ensued and Ridge Point was given the point to change the score to 17-14.
From there, the Lady Panthers won three of the next four points to open a 20-16 lead.
Dawson fought back with block winners from juniors Aliyah McDonald and Maddie Deslatte to pull within 22-20.
Following a Lady Eagle error which stretched Ridge Point’s advantage to 23-20, Lady Eagle Thalia Cordero recorded a kill for a 23-21 score.
However, Ridge Point won the set on a howitzer blast from Fields followed by a reflex stab winner, also from Fields, to close out the game for a commanding 2-0 sets lead.
Dawson, which led in each of the first two sets, could never get the upper hand in the final game.
Ridge Point grabbed a quick 5-2 lead on a hard kill, a placement winner and an ace from Jeter. The Lady Panthers widened the advantage to 8-4 on a kill from Lindsey Ogle.
Dawson closed the gap to 13-10 on a blast from Kynnedi Johnson, and was still close at 16-13 on another kill from the Baylor commit.
Ridge Point, though, then went on a 5-1 run for a 21-14 lead. Three Dawson errors and two kills by Fields accounted for that surge.
From there, the Lady Panthers coasted to the finish line with kills from Jeter, Fields, Rutherford and Fields once more.
“There were definitely some calls that were surprising,” Leth said, “but you know, that doesn’t change the outcome of the match. At the end of the day, Ridge Point was the better team today.
“They have so many weapons, and they’re so big. It’s just very hard to manage that when your size doesn’t match up. I felt my girls worked as hard as they could, but definitely Ridge Point is a powerhouse.”
Lady Panther head coach Lori McLaughlin, who was the head coach at Dawson when the school opened, was obviously pleased with her team’s performance.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” she said. “This is obviously what the goal was, and we’re still not finished.
“There were so many concerns (with Dawson). Lauren Leth is an incredible leader, and she does a great job with her players and coaching staff.
“We had to execute a good game plan, and we did. I think we played very well-rounded. We struggled a bit on serving at the beginning…way too many serving errors. But we got that under control.”
Leth said Dawson tried to adjust to Ridge Point’s play, but the Lady Eagles didn’t have many answers.
“We changed a lot,” Leth said. “We tried to change some matchups to get better blocks. We tried to change our defenders out to get better touches.
“We just made more errors. They took care of business at the net, and we didn’t have an answer for it.”
McLaughlin said winning the first set helped set the tone for the match.
“Our goal is to have a good sense of urgency, and sometimes we struggle with that,” she said. “How we finish is what we ultimately look for, and tonight was great.”
Ridge Point was led in kills by Fields with 13, Jeter with eight and Rutherford with seven. The Lady Panthers were led in in assists by Kendall Sekula with 18 and Rutherford with 17 while Nia Cardell added 15 digs and Rutherford contributed 14. Ridge Points’ block leaders were Lindsey Ogle and Tiana Davis with two each.
Johnson paced Dawson with 12 kills.