WOLFFORTH – The road to a UIL Class 4A state volleyball championship will once again go through Randall.
The No. 1-ranked Lady Raiders are headed back to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland to defend their Class 4A crown and it took every bit of their energy to do it. Randall had to outlast a hard-fought match with a very talented Stephenville team on Saturday in the Region I-4A Tournament finals, but the Lady Raiders were able to get it done with a thrilling four-set victory, 22-25, 25-13, 25-15, 32-30.
The Lady Raiders (42-4) will take 12 straight postseason wins to the UIL Class 4A state tournament with aspirations of making it back-to-back championships.
“This is a testament to the program and the players,” said Randall head coach Haleigh Burns, who will make her third appearance at the UIL state tournament in five years with the Lady Raiders. “Getting back to the state tournament is harder than people think. We had a target on our back all year and teams have played their absolute best against us. To get back to the state tournament is an incredible feeling.”
After sweeping Glen Rose in a semifinal on Friday night, 25-15, 25-22, 25-16, Randall turned around and got a wakeup call from the No. 6-ranked Honeybees on Saturday. This wasn’t easy by any means with Stephenville (34-6) coming away with an impressive 22-25 first-set win.
The Lady Raiders didn’t flinch. Behind the powerful offense of Jordyn Gove and the brilliant passing of Sidney Soria, Randall cruised to a 2-1 advantage after winning the next two sets. However, it was the fourth set where things got really interesting.
Randall started off with a 12-5 lead in the fourth highlighted by five straight Gove aces from the service line. Stephenville, fighting for its playoff lives, didn’t go away, tying the game 14-14, then taking a 25-24 lead late in the set. The two teams then went back-and-forth for an incredible six-point rally before the senior Gove lofted a kill over the net that the Honeybees couldn’t handle for the 32-30 victory and the celebration was on.
“We knew this was going to be a battle,” Burns said. “Stephenville is a heck of a team. They are so athletic and play excellent volleyball. We just had to play Randall volleyball. That’s when great things happen. We have great players that work hard and when we play together it shows. I don’t think my blood pressure has ever been that high like it has in that fourth set.”
Gove echoed Burns’ comment.
“We always talk about being there for our team,” said Gove, who was the 2022 UIL Class 4A state MVP. “We played a game where we came out and showed we were able to step up as a team. We played with a lot of grit and we weren’t ready for our season to end.”
Thanks to Soria quarterbacking the offense and playing stunning defense over the weekend, the junior setter was selected as the Region I-4A Tournament MVP. Soria, a North Texas verbal commit, passed out 48 assists, made 17 digs and added seven kills in the win against Stephenville. For the two games, Soria combined for 91 assists.
“I can’t do it without my teammates,” Soria said. “I can’t set the ball without a pass; I can’t hand out an assist without a middle or an outside. This means a lot to me because I know my team has my back and supports me through everything.”
Gove and Brooke Henderson were named to the All-Tournament team. Gove was the muscle on Saturday knocking down a game-high 23 kills served up an eye-popping eight aces and added 11 digs for a double-double. For the two games, Gove combined for 45 kills with 33 digs.
Henderson chipped in with a combined 24 digs and 20 kills.