Much like their regional final match against Stephenville, the Randall Lady Raiders found themselves in trouble after the first set.
However, much like the regional final against Stephenville, the Lady Raiders dug deep thanks to their will to win to take the final three sets from Salado to earn a hard fought, 23-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-22, victory in the UIL Class 4A state semifinals on Thursday night at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
This victory propels Randall (43-4) to the UIL Class 4A state championship game where the Lady Raiders will try and defend their crown from last year when they battle Comal Davenport (46-5) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Salado was a much bigger team than Randall up front averaging close to 6-foot-1 across the front row. That size difference showed with the Lady Eagles (39-11) taking the first set 25-23. But much like the Stephenville match, Randall rallied by taking control in the second set. Randall trailed in that second set 13-8 and looked to be in serious trouble until the Lady Raiders went on a 10-5 run to tie it up 18-18 following a pair of kills by senior Brooke Henderson.
Randall went to close the second set and tie the match on a Sidney Soria kill and an error on Salado.
After handling the third set to go up 2-1, Randall once again found itself going back-and-forth with the Lady Eagles in the fourth tied at 22 before closing the game out with the final three points.
“I think it was quite the battle,” Randall head coach Haleigh Burns said. “Salado is a really good volleyball team and they had us on our heels in that first set. We did a good job of settling in and coming together and found some rhythm with some good energy. I’m just proud of this team because they are big and athletic. We responded really well.”
Burns went on to say that is just the attitude that this Randall team possesses.
“We may not be the tallest or the most athletic, but we push hard for every ball,” Burns said. “We never give up and play really well together. Brooke Henderson plays bigger than she is, and she had big blocks. We play with a lot of heart, and we show how much we want it.”
Senior leader Jordyn Gove, the 2022 State Tournament MVP, was once again masterful on the grand stage of the Culwell Center. Gove racked up her sixth straight double-double of the playoffs leading the team with 27 and 21 digs. Soria, the reigning Region I-4A Tournament MVP, quarterbacked the offense and kept Salado off its game defensively with 44 assists to go with 15 digs for a double-double and six kills. Henderson also stepped up in a huge way. Having a tremendous postseason, Henderson delivered once more with 17 kills at the net and 13 digs for a double-double of her own.
“We just looked forward,” Gove said. “We wanted to put the ball in the right places and find ways to get teams out of system. Everyone just did their job and didn’t worry about any mistakes. We wanted to get ahead and take control and we just trusted each other.”