Garland – From starting the season unranked to calling themselves University Interscholastic League Class 4A state champions.
That’s what the Randall Lady Raiders volleyball team accomplished by sweeping Aubrey 25-16, 25-17, 27-25, to win their first state title since 2009 on Saturday afternoon at the Curtis Culwell Center to finish an unbelievable season at 40-8 overall.
“I’m so excited and at a loss for words,” Randall head coach Haleigh Burns said. “If you’d told me in February that we’d been here, I don’t know if I could have agreed. We had a lot of work to do. I watched my team play in the summer and I knew then that we had a chance. I’m so proud of this group. We’ve been through so much and it’s a true testament to the hard work they’ve put in.”
Burns emotion in the press conference comes from a past year full of adversity for Randall High School. When Canyon ISD added West Plains High School, giving CISD three High School’s in the district, Randall not only dropped into Class 4A, but lost a major portion of its volleyball team. Instead of folding, Burns and her Randall players that stayed immediately came together.
“I wouldn’t want to go through what we did with any other team,” senior Tatum Brandt said. “This entire experience has made my senior season the best I’ve ever had. We have such great chemistry and the best players and coaches. This is my dream. I told coach (Haleigh) Burns that I was going to win a state title for her. To have the medal to prove that means the world.”
After cruising through the first two sets and looking like nothing was going to slow Randall down, Aubrey (39-9) battled hard in the third set tying the game, 24-24. There was no way Randall wanted to go to a fourth set and it wouldn’t happen as the Lady Raiders were able to put the match away for the state championship victory on a Kandree Perez kill, followed by a Perez ace.
Outside hitter Jordyn Gove delivered another stellar performance being a complete mismatch for Aubrey as the junior led the way going for 15 digs and 12 kills to win state MVP honors, while setter Sidney Soria threw the Lady Chaps off balance the entire match passing out 37 assists.
“This is an unreal feeling,” Gove said. “I wouldn’t want any other team to do this with. This shows how hard we’ve worked as a team and how much we all wanted it. We all just play for each other.”
As special as this championship is to the Randall community, and the players, don’t forget how cherishable it is to a local product like Burns. The 2009 Caprock graduate, then known by her maiden name of Cearley, joins rare air with her first career state championship.
Burns won 73 games helping rebuild her Alma mater, Caprock, as her first head coaching job from 2015-2018 and says making the leap to Randall was the hardest thing she’s ever done.
“Giving back at Caprock was such an experience I’ll never forget,” Burns said. “I’d never trade that for anything. Then making the transition to Randall was so hard. I loved Caprock but I knew I wanted something just a little more. Change is hard but I did it and I’m here now and going back to where I grew up with a gold medal is incredible.”
Burns, who has led Randall to two of its seven state tournament appearances, is now 128-32 in four years with the Lady Raiders. Burns won her prestigious 200th game in the semifinals on Thursday against Huffman Hargrave, but winning No. 201 on Saturday was the icing on the cake.
“Winning 201 is a lot sweeter,” Burns said. “The 200th win on Thursday was so memorable but to win a state championship with my 201st victory is something I can never forget. It’s just a blessing.”
For full game stats from the Randall-Aubrey state championship visit: https://www.uiltexas.org/files/athletics/state-volleyball/22vb4af.htm