in Volleyball

After losing District 18-3A third place tiebreaker to Whitney, Clifton Lady Cubs make back-to-back trips to playoffs before being eliminated by Scurry-Rosser in Bi-District matchup

Going into the Class 3A state volleyball playoffs as the fourth seed out of District 17-3A, the Clifton Lady Cubs knew their path in the postseason would be a tough one. In their Bi-District matchup last Tuesday, it proved to be more than they could handle.

Facing the District 18-3A champion Scurry-Rosser Lady Wildcats in a hard-fought battle, the Lady Cubs were eliminated in straight sets, 25-21, 25-16, 25-19, at Italy High School. Senior Carley Caniford and junior Kate Humphreys led Clifton (16-15) with six kills each, while junior Sydney Fullerton delivered three service aces in the losing effort to Scurry-Rosser (25-12). Junior Laylah Gaona and Fullerton provided a team-high 13 digs apiece, followed by Carley Caniford with 12.

“We played a good team and our girls battled,” Clifton first-year head coach Whitney Holdbrook said. “We just couldn’t find the consistency needed to beat Scurry.”

Qualifying for the Class 3A volleyball state playoffs for the second straight season, the Lady Cubs were forced to enter the postseason as the district’s No. 4 seed after losing in a hard-fought, five-set heartbreaking showdown for third place against the arch-rival Whitney Lady Wildcats, 25-27, 25-17, 25-19, 18-25, 15-9, Oct. 28 in Valley Mills.

“We have a talented group of girls who made it a goal to make the playoffs,” Holdbrook said. “These girls put in the work since last season to achieve this goal. Each player made it a priority to better their skills for the team, and it has shown throughout this season.”

Although the Lady Cubs will be returning a strong group of underclassmen with varsity experience next season, the Clifton volleyball program will be saying goodbye to two seniors, twin sisters Carley and Camryn Caniford.

“We are losing two big contributors to our team,” Holdbrook said. “Both have been four-year lettermen and brought a great deal of leadership to our program. But we will be returning eight members next season. All of our returners have gained valuable game experience this year and will be able to bring that to the table next season to achieve their goals.”

Grandview (33-9) entered the playoffs as the district’s top seed and the Lady Zebras eliminated the Malakoff Lady Tigers in four sets, 25-14, 25-13, 24-26, 25-20, in a Bi-District playoff matchup Oct. 31, before rolling past Lorena, 25-18, 25-18, 17-25, 25-17, in an Area playoff game Nov. 4. The Lady Zebras continued their trek toward the state tournament by knocking off Cameron Yoe, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-14, last Tuesday in the Region III Quarterfinals, before Central Heights eliminated Grandview in a five-set thriller, 11-25, 25-12, 18-25, 25-23, 15-9, Friday in the Region III Semifinal showdown.

In other Bi-District playoff matchups, West (29-12) swept past Mildred, 25-23, 25-14, 25-17, in Ennis, while Whitney (20-23) won in straight sets over Eustace, 25-20, 25-23, 25-14, in Italy following Clifton’s playoff game. West and Whitney were both eliminated in the Area playoff round.

After losing to district runner-up West in straight sets, 25-15, 25-14, 25-20, on the road, the Lady Cubs closed out the regular season with a dominating straight set victory at the Waco Harmony Science Academy, 25-2, 25-5, 25-13, last Tuesday.

Senior Carley Caniford led the Lady Cubs with 10 kills while junior Alyssa Santillan delivered eight service aces to lead Clifton over Harmony (0-12, 0-20). Senior Camryn Caniford contributed nine kills and three service aces, followed by Humphreys with six kills.

Against West, Carley Caniford led the Lady Cubs with eight kills, followed by Humphreys with five, while Fullerton delivered two service aces, dished out 12 assists and came up with 12 digs.

By knocking off the Maypearl Lady Panthers in a five-set marathon, 19-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-7, Oct. 11, the Lady Cubs locked up a spot in the playoffs. Carley Caniford with 16 kills, junior Brianna Gonzalez with nine, Humphreys with seven while Camryn Caniford and Fullerton smashed six each.

Despite losing the first two sets, the Lady Cubs battled back in constant do-or-die mode to pull out the victory. Fullerton led Clifton with 25 assists and 16 digs, junior Laylah Gaona came up with a team-high 26 digs, Carley Caniford 15 digs, while Santillan, sophomore Cameron Ritz and Fullerton delivered two service aces each.

“The girls struggled in the first two sets against Maypearl,” Holdbrook said. “But they answered with intensity in the third, fourth and fifth sets. I am proud of the fight they showed and that they never lost sight of the team goal.”

To set up the battle for the third-place playoff seeding, Whitney avenged its loss in the first round by sweeping the Lady Cubs in three sets, 25-18, 26-24, 25-17, Oct. 14. Carley Caniford led Clifton with eight kills, Fullerton dished out seven assists and Gaona came up with 18 digs.

“The team has been focused on their goal of returning to the playoffs,” Holdbrook said. “I am proud of the girls and the desire they show to improve every day, and how they carry that to the games.


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