HILLSBORO — Ellison head coach Sarah Stolley has seen a lot of progress in her two years at the helm of the Lady Eagles, and the future certainly looks bright for the Green and White.
But on Tuesday evening, Ellison ran into a stout South Grand Prairie team that possessed an imposing front row, and the Lady Eagles’ season came to its unfortunate end with a 3-1 loss (25-13, 25-19, 19-25, 25-22) to the Warriors in the bi-district round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Ellison simply had their hands full with South Grand Prairie’s presence at the net, led by sophomore Azhani Tealer, senior Kealie Reagan and junior Kayetlin Lewis, among others.
But the Lady Eagles (21-17), on their heels after dropping the first two sets, battled back to win Set 3 and slugged back and forth with the Warriors, the District 7-6A champions, in the fourth to give themselves a chance to extend the match.
Although they eventually succumbed, their refusal to accept defeat left quite an impression on their head coach.
“I was just inspired by how tough they were,” Stolley said of her team. “That South Grand Prairie team — and coach (Lauren) Otto has done a great job with them — they are great. They are a No. 1 seed for a reason, and a lot of respect to their players.
That was a great group of tall, athletic girls. But I think we hung with them.”
In the third stanza, Ellison fell behind 7-4 before scoring three consecutive points to tie it up. Kills by juniors Shauntia Landrum and Elicia Barcinas highlighted the short run.
Later in the set, down 13-11, the Lady Eagles went on a 6-0 run to snag a 17-11 lead, and they never looked back en route to a six-point win to extend the match to a fourth set.
Sophomore Semira Fields led Ellison in the period with six kills, followed by Landrum and junior Breonna Fleming with two apiece.
In Set 4, the two teams battle back and forth for the entirety of the stanza. Tied at 18, however, South Grand Prairie (27-9) scored three straight points to take a 21-18 advantage.
Once again, the Lady Eagles refused to quit.
Consecutive kills by junior Symone Thomas and sophomore Jakarta Hope pulled them within one, at 21-20. But that was as close as Ellison would get, as the Warriors closed out a three-point win in the set to capture the match.
Fleming led the Lady Eagles offensively with eight kills, followed by three players — Barcinas, Fields and Landrum — with seven apiece.
Junior Samantha Robinson dished out a team-high 23 assists and had four service aces, and Hope tallied 15 assists and two aces.
Sophomore Jaraysia Hope recorded 13 digs. Senior Melissa Ruiz had 12 digs, and fellow senior Tori Urbas registered seven.
While the season — as well as Tuesday night’s battle with South Grand Prairie — gave Stolley much to look forward to with her young team, she said she will certainly miss her three seniors. Natalie Rojas, Ruiz and Urbas played their final match for Ellison against the Warriors.
“We will miss their leadership,” Stolley said. “What they contribute to practices every day made us better able to compete at a higher level with a team of that caliber. Everything they did every day, their attitudes and their love for the game — it goes without saying.”
And if her team is going to fall, Stolley would rather they do so the way they did against South Grand Prairie.
“I’m so proud,” Stolley said. “They left everything that they could out on the floor, and they fought. That’s the way you finish the season, and anything else would have been disappointing.”