Thursday night, the 2014 Bellaire Volleyball season came to a close after the Lady Cardinals lost to the Cy-Ranch Mustangs in the Area stage of UIL’s volleyball playoffs. The Lady Cardinals competed very well against one of Houston’s most elite teams. A lively crowd of Mustang students and supporters filled the Cypress Ranch High School Gym to watch their veteran team and standout All American, middle blocker, Shelly Fanning. In what was the most difficult place Bellaire has been asked to compete in all season; the Lady Cardinals were surprisingly strong.
Unaccustomed to entering an opponent’s school gym filled with an enthusiastic crowd, this younger Lady Cardinal team demonstrated great maturity and confidence; setting aside the intimidating environment and focusing on their game. Led by seniors Briana Wilson and Katie Fairbanks, the Bellaire Lady Cardinals quickly demonstrated they had come to compete and will be a challenge. Briana Wilson came out on fire and led the Cardinals with 9 kills. The Cardinals adapted quickly to the speed and attacked aggressively early in the first set. Senior out-sides Briana Wilson and Clair Smith delivered sharp attacks with help from sophomore middle Maya Evans and junior Travanna Matthews. Junior right-side Sundara Chinn was also aggressive; but, the veteran Cy-Ranch middles and hitters adjusted quickly to successfully disrupt the Cardinals at the net. By midway through the first set; the Mustangs were anticipating well and made key blocks. The Cardinals continued to compete, staying in system and executing quality volleyball. Free balls were uncommon amid rallies; but, the Lady Cardinals were swept by the Mustangs 25-17, 25-13, 25-10. After the match, Coach Clarke said; “I thought she [Wilson] played the best match of her senior year.” Coach Clarke also added; “I thought Katie had a great post season.” Libero, Katie Fairbanks was outstanding behind the 10 foot line; passing a remarkable 2.7 / 3.0 in the post season.
When asked about the Cardinal’s post season play, Coach Clarke said; “I was happy overall with our play considering we have not seen this type of volleyball since August.” In addition to facing a very elite and older Cy-Ranch volleyball team, the younger Cardinal players were unaccustomed to competing within the intimidating environments of opponents’ school gyms. Additionally, Bellaire did not face a serious competitive challenge throughout a district schedule; which consumed the last two-thirds of the regular season. Given these obstacles, Bellaire was the only team from the District 20-6A to win in the post season; sweeping a solid Katy Taylor team (3-0) in bi-district competition. Thursday’s loss ended a 51 set consecutive win streak going back to August 23rd as Bellaire went undefeated through district play (48-0 sets, 16-0 matches); sweeping every team…twice. When asked about the 2014 Cardinals, Coach Clarke said; “I am very happy with our season. I thought we had a lot of growth and I thoroughly enjoyed coaching these young ladies. They have been a tight knit group from day one and you could tell on the court.”
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