in Volleyball

Advancing to the Class 3A volleyball state playoffs for the second straight season, Clifton Lady Cubs place two on all-District 17-3A first-team, two more on second-team

CLIFTON – By qualifying for the Class 3A state volleyball playoffs as the fourth seed out of District 17-3A, the Clifton Lady Cubs made their second straight trip to the postseason after sitting out of the big show for six consecutive seasons. And in doing so, the Lady Cubs received accolades for their success.

Juniors Laylah Gaona and Sydney Fullerton were named to the all-District 17-3A first-team, while seniors Carley Caniford and Camryn Caniford drew second-team, all-district honors.

“The girls receiving these honors have been on varsity several seasons and have put in a lot of time and effort to improve their skills,” Clifton volleyball’s first-year head coach Whitney Holdbrook said. “I was proud to coach this team this season. This group of girls put in the work every day to achieve their goals.”

Clifton’s honorable mention selections included juniors Brianna Gonzalez and Kate Humphreys. Lady Cubs receiving academic all-district honors were Carley Caniford, Camryn Caniford, Kate Humphreys, Brianna Gonzalez, Sydney Fullerton, Laylah Gaona, Carly Howard, Alyssa Santillan, Camy Barsh and Cameron Ritz.

For the second straight season, the Lady Cubs (16-15) were eliminated by the District 18-3A champion Scurry-Rosser Lady Wildcats in a hard-fought, straight-sets battle, 25-21, 25-16, 25-19, at Italy High School. Senior Carley Caniford and junior Kate Humphreys led Clifton 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.”

By finishing fourth in District 17-3A last season, the Lady Cubs secured their first playoff appearance since 2014, only to fall against 11th-ranked Scurry-Rosser, 3-1, in a Bi-District Playoff matchup at Hillsboro High School.

District champion 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, 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.

“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.”

Carley Caniford led the Lady Cubs with 227 kills, Camryn Caniford led the team with 47 total blocks, Fullerton paced Clifton with 363 assists, and Gaona provided a team-high 313 digs.

“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.”


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