After advancing to the Class 3A volleyball state playoffs for the first time since 2014, the Clifton Lady Cubs were eliminated by 11th-ranked Scurry-Rosser in bi-district
HILLSBORO — As they ventured into unfamiliar territory, the Clifton Lady Cubs entered the 2021 Class 3A state playoffs riding the momentum of playing their best volleyball at the right time.
But it wasn’t enough against 11th-ranked Scurry-Rosser as the Lady Cubs were eliminated by the Lady Wildcats, 3-1, in a Bi-District Playoff matchup Tuesday night at Hillsboro High School. After winning the District 18-3A title, the Lady Wildcats (29-4) extended their winning streak to 20 straight. But the first round loss in four sets, 25-19, 23-25, 25-13, 25-17, did nothing to take away from what the Lady Cubs achieved this season.
“What the girls achieved this season was phenomenal,” Clifton volleyball head coach Paige Poth said. “During our leadership meetings, the girls said “we want to be in the playoffs.” And our mentality shifted from it being a goal to being an expectation. And really in the off-season, they held themselves to those expectations.
“We had great leadership. That leadership showed in our playoff game. Our opponent was a tough team, but we never stopped fighting. The seniors left everything they had on the court and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Securing their first playoff appearance since 2014, the Lady Cubs (8-6 in district, 21-16 overall) 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).
“It was a feeling like no other,” Poth said of making the playoffs for the first time during her tenure at Clifton. “For three years, I have been telling the girls to trust the process, it will all pay off. And then it does. It was just an exciting moment for the girls and me. I can’t talk enough about how deserving our kids are.”
After clinching their first postseason appearance in eight seasons with an overwhelming District 17-3A 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, Oct. 22.
“It was another great night for us against Riesel,” 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.”
Then after winning the first set last Tuesday, Clifton wrapped up the regular season with a home loss to 13th-ranked Troy, 25-27, 25-18, 25-12, 25-14, as Lady Trojan sophomore Kaycee Cavanaugh smashed a game-high 23 kills.
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).
After celebrating postseason berth under the Lady Cub volleyball banner in the Clifton High School Gymnasium, it was time to begin focusing on a tough Bi-District playoff opponent in Scurry-Rosser.
“There is a lot of excitement going into tonight’s game,” Poth said prior to the bi-district playoff match. “I think it will be a great match up. Our girls have worked hard in the preseason playing some awesome 4A, 5A and 6A schools that we took a few wins from. Then we did a great job competing in our district. Every match we have played has been tough, and our kids have been trained to be tough and compete every single point.”
That’s exactly what the Lady Cubs did. And be doing so, they accomplished something Clifton High School volleyball had not achieved since 2014.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.