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With a playoff berth in their sights, Class 3A Clifton Lady Cubs open tough District 17-3A competition by hosting the West Lady Trojans Friday

CLIFTON — After losing two of their last three preseason matches due to Covid protocol cancellations last week, the Clifton Lady Cubs made the most of their one last tune-up Tuesday before opening play in the tough District 17-3A Friday.

With the cancellation of matches against Class 4A Waco Connally at home Aug. 31 as well as a road matchup against Class 4A Hillsboro last Friday, Clifton traveled to Covington for its final non-district match on Tuesday and came home with a convincing 25-9, 25-9, 25-15 straight set victory.

Now, the Lady Cubs (13-9) focus on opening District 17-3A competition at home against West (17-8) at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Clifton High School Gymnasium.

“It was a good win, especially after not playing for a week,” Clifton volleyball head coach Paige Poth said. “Errors have been kept to a minimum, and it was a good way to finish pre season and be ready for Friday’s district play.”

Despite showing flashes of promise last season, District 17-3A proved to be too much to handle for a young Lady Cub squad with only one senior on the roster. This season, Clifton has 11 returning players and plans on taking the next step to the promise land. But the Lady Cubs will have to do so against the likes of Class 3A’s third-ranked Lorena (18-2), ninth-ranked Troy (13-3), West and Riesel, along with Whitney, McGregor and Waco Harmony Science Academy.

“We are a very competitive team,” Poth said. “Like any other team in the district, we are working hard to make it into the top four teams. Our expectation is to be one of those top four teams, and we are confident going into this district play together and meeting those expectations together.”

Throughout the 2020 season, the tough District 17-3A included two state-ranked teams, the Troy Lady Trojans (11-1 in district, 24-5 overall) and the Lorena Lady Leopards (11-1, 23-4). Clifton (3-9, 7-13) finished tied for fifth in district, just one spot out of advancing to the playoffs.

“We definitely played in a competitive district, but we held our own and fought each game,” Poth said. “I was proud of the way the girls fought and played last season. Looking at the progress, we finished a spot higher than the previous season and made huge steps in continuing to develop our program.

“We have 11 kids coming back this year ready to pick up where we left off.  I’m very excited to see where this new season takes us.”

Prior to the cancellations, the Lady Cubs played some high level competition at the San Marcos Ragin’ Rattler Tournament Aug. 26-28.

“We played up against some great teams from all classifications,” Clifton volleyball head coach Paige Poth said. “We made some big plays against those teams, and took away many lessons that will move over to the practice court.”

After opening the tournament by losing four straight matches to Class 4A Corpus Christi Calallen, 25-23, 25-20, Class 5A Pflugerville Hendrickson, 25-17, 25-14, Class 6A Austin Bowie, and Class 6A San Angelo Central, the Lady Cubs rebounded to win their last two matches against Class 5A Manor and Class 5A Bastrop Cedar Creek, 17-25, 25-23, 25-7, to take third place in the Copper Bracket.

“I think we did great things in the pre-season.” Poth said. “I feel confident going into district play on Friday knowing that the girls are going to do great things this season. We played tough opponents and took something away from every single game we played.

“The mindset going into this season was we are going to play some of the best teams around and each of those experiences is beneficial no matter the outcome. Each opponent they played was going to get us ready for our district play, and our mindset going in on Friday is ‘We’re in this together.'”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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