in Volleyball

Fighting to compete in a tough district, the young Clifton Lady Cubs wrap up first round playing host to 14-ranked Troy

CLIFTON — With only one senior on the squad, the youthful Clifton Lady Cub volleyball team has struggled to find the winning ingredients playing in the tough District 17-3A. Losing some hard fought matches and facing a couple of state-ranked teams in district, the Lady Cubs face a steep hill to climb to reach their goal of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

As they close out the first round of district competition Tuesday, the Lady Cubs (1-5 in district, 5-9 overall) will host the 14th-ranked Troy Lady Trojans (5-1, 14-2) in the Clifton High School Gymnasium. Snapping a five-match losing streak, Clifton swept past the Riesel Lady Indians in straight sets, 25-20, 25-19, 25-19, at home last Friday.

“The girls played good against Riesel,” Clifton volleyball second-year head coach Paige Poth said. “We ran a good offense and played solid defense. I think we have done well overall this first round. We know the adjustments we have to make going into the second round, and speeding up our game is the number one priority.”

Although Clifton finished their non-district schedule with a winning record, the 2020-22 UIL realignment left District 17-3A tough once again. By closing out the non-district schedule with a hard-fought but impressive straight set victory over Class 4A Hillsboro, 25-23, 25-20, 25-15, Poth felt the Lady Cubs were ready.

“We were still working out the little things to be prepared for district games,” Poth said. “Against Hillsboro, the girls did a great job working together and getting the win in three. It was a good game to get us ready for West.”

Opening district on the road at West Sept. 8, the Lady Cubs worked hard and competed well, but came up short as the Lady Trojans pulled out the win in straight sets, 25-21, 25-13, 25-23.

“It was a good match between us and West,” Poth said. “We had leads in both set 1 and 3. We struggled to close the set each time and forced too many errors within a rotation a few times. But they worked hard and overall played good.”

Against the 15th-ranked and league-leading Lorena Lady Leopards (6-0, 12-2), the Lady Cubs saw how high they needed to set the bar as Lorena swept to a convincing 25-17, 25-8, 25-16 victory.

On the heels of the lopsided loss to Lorena, the Lady Cubs dropped a heartbreaker to the Whitney Lady Wildcats, winning the first set, 25-19, before letting three straight hard-fought sets slip away, 25-20, 25-22, 28-26, to lose the match on the road. The disappointing loss to Whitney set up back-to-back losses to McGregor, 25-14, 25-12, 25-17, and at Grandview, 27-25, 25-12, 25-17, before snapping the five-game skid against Riesel.

Armed with a host of talented underclassmen gaining experience in 2019, the Lady Cubs did not realize their dream of making the Class 3A, Division II playoffs for the first time in years. But Poth laid the foundation for the future, and the Lady Cubs made their presence known despite playing in the tough District 17-3A boasting three state-ranked teams throughout the season.

“After setting the tone last year, my returners came in and said this is really what they wanted again,” Poth said. “So we have picked up from there and everyone else joined in. It was nice that those girls stepped up, and it has helped us a lot.

“Making the playoffs is a huge goal for this season, but we are just taking it one game at a time. We have a game plan, every game is a chance to execute that game plan and do what we need to do to compete in district.”


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