HARKER HEIGHTS — Chris Wiley was out of time outs and out of patience.
After three years of watching the Harker Heights volleyball team squander playoff opportunities, the Lady Knights coach knew he couldn’t help them any more.
Calling his final timeout after an unforced error gave Waco Midway a 19-16 lead in Game 3, Wiley released the reins.
“It was their time,” Wiley said.
Taking heed of the opportunity, the unbridled Lady Knights found their “money spot” along the front left-hand corner of the net and scored eight of the final 10 points to slam the door on the visiting Pantherettes 25-12, 25-16, 25-23 and clinch Heights’ first playoff appearance since 2006.
“We just wanted it so bad, we wanted to get to the playoffs and we have such chemistry and using it to carry us as far as we can go,” said senior setter Katie Schulte, who led with 32 assists, most of which went to whoever was in the left corner.
Senior outside hitter Caitlyn Young had the most success from that spot, leading Heights (33-4, 9-1 8-5A) with 10 kills, followed by eight and seven from fellow outside hitter Anjane Janda and middle blocker Shantraie Rodriguez.
“It was open and once we saw it open then hey, why not put it there if we’re going to hit it every time,” Schulte said of the left side.
After going point-for-point throughout the first half of the first two games, seemingly teasing Midway, the Lady Knights used closing runs of 14-2 and 11-2 to put away the Pantherettes (17-22, 6-4).
“I can’t say enough about this team,” Wiley said. “The girls just fight, they never give up and when they get to the point that they have you by the throat, they’re going to put you away.”
Tied at 14-14 in Game 2, Heights senior Blake Filip opened a 6-0 run with an ace before 6-foot-2 junior Kathleen Janda capped it with back-to-back kills and a block past Midway’s front line.
Game 3, though, was a different story. Young started an early Heights push with a powerful shot down the left sideline to pull ahead 8-6 and added back-to-back kills at the same spot to make it 11-7. The Pantherettes didn’t go quietly as middle Angel Summers stuffed Lady Knights senior Deysia Burden on consecutive tries before a kill from Allison Jones capped a 6-0 Midway run to go ahead 13-11 and prompt Wiley’s first time out of the game.
“I knew they weren’t going to quit, I knew they weren’t going to go away, they’re not that kind of team,” Wiley said.
Following Wiley’s final time out of Game 3, both teams traded a couple of point-for-point rotations before the Lady Knights found their comfort zone again as Janda sandwiched a pair of cross-court kills from the left corner around a tip-kill from Schulte to tie it at 21-21.
“That was just a good spot — it was a money spot tonight,” Wiley said. “We worked real hard on our line shots and coming cross court because we’ve seen the last couple of games teams have made some adjustments to shut down where our power’s at.”
Both teams traded errors before Heights pulled ahead 23-22 on back-to-back Midway miscues to force the Pantherettes’ second time out in five serves.
From there, it was Young’s turn along at left corner, bookending a net violation from Kathleen Janda with devastating kills to the back line to secure the sweep and the playoff berth.
“When it’s 24-23 us, we know it’s our time to shine and take that point and the game,” Schulte said.
Young added: “When you have the opportunity for that last hit, you really want to take it.”
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566