The past, present and probably future of Class 4A volleyball was on display Tuesday night at the West Texas A&M Fieldhouse.
But it was only the former two categories which mattered in the regional quarterfinal, and there was no doubt Hereford held that advantage over West Plains.
Established program Hereford took on upstart West Plains after scoring two sweeps over the new school in District 3-4A play in the regular season. Tradition held form as the Lady Whitefaces rolled to a 25-23, 25-12, 25-16 sweep to advance to the Region I-4A semifinal against Stephenville at 8 p.m. on Friday evening at Frenship.
Playing in what has to be considered one of the best volleyball districts in the state, Hereford (36-8) has maintained its tradition by making a fifth straight trip to the regional tournament. But West Plains (33-9) was a tricky obstacle, considering that old cliché about how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season.
“We talked about that a lot,” Hereford coach Carley McCracken said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times and our girls just being ready for West Plains was big. They’re a good team and they’re coached well, and we made sure our heads were on our shoulders and performed that way.”
West Plains hasn’t resembled a first-year program that often this season, but the Lady Wolves got some lessons from the Herd. They started the match by taking a 2-0 lead, but would lead only once more the rest of the way.
The first set was the most competitive and looked as if it could set the tone for an exciting evening. Hereford went up by as many as six points and seemed ready to cruise, but West Plains chipped away and tied it twice and 22 and 23.
But Hereford responded like a veteran team, scoring the last two points via kills, with Nickilah Whatley slamming the last one down to sew up the set.
“That’s our fuel right there,” Whatley said of Hereford’s tradition. “We tell each other we have to go in and work hard because that’s the tradition at Hereford, you work hard no matter what. We want to go in and get better for those who have counted us out. Honesty, I look at those (state championship banners) every day when we’re warming up and that’s my inspiration.”
Whatley led the Herd with 10 kills, 12 digs and five blocks.
The second set was far less competitive. Hereford scored 10-of-11 points and one juncture and went up 15-5. Karisma Trevino had a big serving set for the Herd, and closed the match out with her serve.
West Plains seemed determined to push it to a fourth set and the third set was tied 9-9 early. But Hereford then scored seven of the next eight points to regain control and cruised to victory.
Losing three times to Hereford during a successful inaugural season could serve as an example for West Plains in the future.
“We kind of want to make our own stamp on the volleyball world in the Panhandle,” West Plains coach Kaitlyn Cornelius said. “Yes, Hereford’s a great team with a lot of experience and that’s something we’re trying to grow and build. We’ve done a good job of laying the foundation and we think eventually we’ll get there and we’ll be one of those programs like Hereford.”
Whatley shared the lead of a team-high 12 digs with Kyndal Blair and of 10 kills with Camryn Blair.
Jayli Franklin led West Plains with nine kills. Cecilla Murillo had 12 digs and 10 assists and Zenaida Murillo led the Lady Wolves with 14 assists.