SET IT UP, SPIKE IT DOWN

in Volleyball

In the driver’s seat for a return to the Class 3A state volleyball playoffs, Clifton Lady Cubs head into second round of District 17-3A in third place

CLIFTON – In winning back-to-back matches last week, the Clifton Lady Cub volleyball team moved into the driver’s seat for its second straight trip to the Class 3A state playoffs heading into the second round of District 17-3A competition. After advancing to the 2021 postseason tournament for the first time since 2014, the Lady Cubs have nine returning varsity players focused on the prize.

On the strength of a dominating straight set victory over Waco Harmony Science Academy, 25-4, 25-5, 25-9, on Senior Night last Friday in the Clifton High School Gymnasium, the Lady Cubs (4-2 in district, 13-10 overall) wrapped up the first round of district in sole possession of third place behind West (6-0, 23-9) and Grandview (5-1, 23-8) and just ahead of Whitney (3-3, 12-20).

“The girls came out with a lot of focus on senior night,” Clifton volleyball first-year head coach Whitney Holdbrook said. “Everyone contributed offensively and defensively.”

Senior Camryn Caniford enjoyed a big night with a season-high 10 kills along with four service aces, junior Laylah Gaona delivered a team-high six aces and six digs, junior Brianna Gonzalez followed with seven kills and four aces, senior Carley Caniford smashed four kills and came up with four digs, while sophomore Cameron Ritz offered a team-high 25 assists.

With a district open date on the schedule last Tuesday, the Lady Cubs hit the road for one more non-district tuneup match, taking down the Tolar Lady Rattlers, 25-9, 26-24, 24-26, 25-20 as juniors Sydney Fullerton and Kate Humphreys delivered three service aces apiece.

Wrapping up a run of four consecutive district games played on their home court, the Lady Cubs will open the second round of District 17-3A competition against Keene (1-5, 12-10) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the CHS Gymnasium before hitting the road to take on Grandview at noon this Saturday.

Clifton opened the extended homestand by sweeping past rival Whitney in straight sets, 25-7, 25-15, 25-22, in dominating fashion Sept. 20. And even though the Lady Cubs suffered a straight set loss to district front runner West, 25-14, 25-14, 25-20, Sept. 23, the Lady Cubs bounced back to third place going into the second round of district.

“The girls came out with an energy that couldn’t be matched,” Holdbrook said after the win against Whitney. “Everyone on the team was locked into the goal. Defensively, we covered all the spots we had been working on during practice. Offensively, everyone came out with strong plays.

In the win over Whitney, Carley Caniford led the Lady Cubs with 10 kills, followed by Gonzalez and Camryn Caniford with six kills each. Fullerton dished out a team-high 15 assists, while Goana delivered three service aces and 16 digs.

Against West, Carley Caniford once again led Clifton with eight kills and 13 digs, followed by Gonzalez with seven and Humphreys with six. Gaona topped the Lady Cubs with 21 serve receptions, Fullerton dished out 14 assists.

In the hard-fought district opening straight set win over Keene, 34-32, 25-20, 25-20, Carley Caniford spiked a team-high eight kills, coming up with 14 digs along with two aces, Fullerton nailed five kills, served up three aces, came up with 17 assists and 16 digs, junior Alyssa Santillan added two aces Ritz provided 12 assists and Gaona came up with 13 digs.

“The team has been focused on their goal of returning to the playoffs,” Holdbrook said. “Against Keene, we struggled to find our offensive rhythm. But the girls still managed to fight for every point and come away with a district win on the road.”

After district opening win over Keene, the Lady Cubs came up short against Grandview in four sets at home. “The girls brought a lot of energy to the court against Grandview, but fell short in getting the win,” Holdbrook said. “They battled to win the third set.”

But Clifton bounced back for a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Maypearl, 25-17, 17-25, 28-26, 25-22, before making it two in a row against Whitney.

Against Maypearl (2-4, 5-11) last Friday, Carley Caniford and Fullerton led the Lady Cubs with 13 kills apiece, followed by Camryn Caniford with eight. Humphreys delivered three service aces, Gaona provided a team-high 18 digs and Ritz dished out 15 assists.

“We came out focused to get a win Friday on the road, and they found a way to get it done,” Holdbrook said. “These girls always amaze me in the fight they give for their team.

 “I believe we have had a good start to district. I am proud of the girls and the desire they show to improve every day, and how they carry that to the games. The team has been focused on their goal of returning to the playoffs.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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