For the first time since 2014, the Clifton Lady Cubs advance to the Class 3A volleyball state playoffs out of the loaded District 17-3A
CLIFTON – With their first playoff appearance since 2014 secured, the Class 3A Clifton Lady Cubs celebrated with a dominating three-set sweep before turning their attention to taking on one of the hottest teams in the state.
After clinching their first postseason appearance in eight seasons with an overwhelming win against Waco Harmony Science Academy, the Lady Cubs celebrated with an impressive sweep over the Riesel Lady Indians, 25-21, 26-24, 25-18, last Friday. Then after winning the first set Tuesday, Clifton wrapped up the regular season with a home loss to 13th-ranked Troy, 25-27, 25-18, 25-12, 25-14.
“It was another great night for us against Riesel,” Clifton volleyball head coach Paige Poth said. “We played great and worked on finishing district strong. Looking at all we have played so far, I feel that we are stronger this round and keep progressing each week which is great going into playoffs. I think our team did great things this district season and look forward to postseason.”
Now, Clifton (8-6 in district, 21-16 overall) will focus on facing the 11th-ranked Scurry-Rosser Lady Wildcats (29-4) in a Bi-District Playoff matchup at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2 at Hillsboro High School. After winning the District 18-3A title, the Lady Wildcats enter the playoffs riding a 19-match winning streak.
The Lady Cubs finished fourth in District 17-3A behind the undefeated district champion and sixth-ranked Lorena Lady Leopards (14-0, 34-4), runner-up Troy (12-2, 30-5), followed by the third place and previously state-ranked West Lady Trojans (10-4, 27-12).
With a playoff berth up for grabs, Clifton left no doubt with a totaling dominating three-set sweep over the Harmony Lady Tigers, 25-2, 25-4, 25-11, Oct. 18 in the Clifton High Gymnasium.
Senior Ava Anderson led the Lady Cubs with 13 kills and seven service aces, followed by junior Carley Caniford with eight kills and junior Camryn Caniford with four. Sophomore Laylah Gaona delivered five service aces, a team-high five digs and five service receptions, sophomore Sydney Fullerton provided 22 assists and sophomore Chloe Baccus contributed nine assists.
“Waco Harmony was a great win for us,” Poth said. “The girls did a great job again focusing on minimizing errors and pushing through every play. It was an exciting night for us. Winning this game sealed us into the top four teams in the district and getting that playoff spot. I was very proud of their focus that game and overall proud of how they have done this season.”
After opening the stretch run with an important win over arch-rival Whitney, the Lady Cubs delivered a statement win as they swept past the McGregor Lady Bulldogs, 25-17, 25-11, 25-12, Oct. 15 to wrap up a week that saw back-to-back wins.
Carley Caniford led the Lady Cubs with 15 kills, followed by Anderson and sophomore Kate Humphreys with nine each. Senior Kamryn Zint contributed a team-high 12 digs and 12 service receptions, while Fullerton handled 33 assists.
“Friday was a fantastic win, and it was a great way to finish off the week,” Poth said. “We got out and competed. But most importantly, they focused on the team they are capable of being and played their best. I was very proud of how they handled the week. It was an important week, especially for us to ensure we secure our spot in the top four teams.”
In a battle for the fourth place playoff berth in district, the Lady Cubs swept past the four teams that stood in their way during the first round of district competition. And by knocking off Harmony (0-14, 0-21), McGregor (4-10, 6-21), Whitney (6-8, 10-18) for a second time, the Lady Cubs completed the clean sweep against Riesel (2-12, 15-21).
“With those wins, we have secured that fourth place spot in the district,” Poth said. “We are working to ensure that we are taking care of what needs to get done as we head into the playoffs.”
Snapping a three-match losing streak while three of the best teams in the state perched at the top of District 17-3A, the Lady Cubs swept the Whitney Lady Wildcats in straight sets, 25-22, 25-15, 25-18, on the road Oct. 12.
Anderson led Clifton with 13 kills and 15 service receptions, followed by Carley Caniford with nine and Humphreys with five. Fullerton contributed a team-high 14 digs, 27 assists and two service aces, Zint came up with 13 digs and 14 service receptions, while senior Kasandra Gaona delivered a team-high three service aces.
“It was a hard fought game,” Poth said following the match. “This group has been very disciplined in executing a game plan. And the thing is; our girls don’t quit. They don’t give up on any play, on any ball, or any game. Friday night against McGregor, we have to go in with the same mentality and same energy as we did against Whitney.”
And that’s exactly what the Lady Cubs did. “The opportunity was present,” Poth said. “In the first round, we proved that we can get the job done. The teams we played were tough, but we have proven that we are able to play with those state-ranked teams. It has taken all of us, but I had no doubt that the girls would get in and get the job done.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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