By Jason Chlapek
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO – The Salado volleyball team is in unfamiliar territory today.
The Lady Eagles will participate in a region tournament for the first time in team history against an opponent they have never faced – George West. The teams meet at 1 p.m. today at Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio for the right to advance to the region final, which will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Blossom.
Prior to observing some film on the Lady Horns, Salado coach Bree Holz-Gonzales knew very little about her team's upcoming opponent.
"(George West) has some height and some girls who can hit the ball pretty well, but all of the teams we've seen so far do, too," Holz-Gonzales said.
George West (23-10) is the District 31-2A champion, and is coming off a 3-0 victory over Banquete on Tuesday. Jane Riser and Nickie Shannon led the way on the front row with eight kills and two blocks each, while Savannah Franco was the top back row player with eight digs and four aces.
No. 13 Salado (37-5) knocked off No. 3 Hallettsville, 3-0, on Tuesday behind a solid front-row play from Danielle Hazzard, Hadley Joiner and Jenna Sebek as well as solid back row play from Lindsey Coffey and Kaitlyn Ruth. The win gave Salado not only its third playoff victory, but also its third straight win over a ranked opponent.
The Lady Eagles beat No. 25 Weimar, 3-1, in bi-district before knocking off No. 12 Poth, 3-2, in the area round and Hallettsville on Tuesday. Poth advanced to five consecutive state volleyball tournaments (2003-07) prior to its loss to Salado.
One of the Lady Eagles' strengths, according to Holz-Gonzales, is their ability to match size disadvantage with quickness.
"A lot of teams are taller than us, so we have to make sure that we not only have our middle blockers defending the hitters, but also that we're quicker on offense," she said. "We're in a mode right now where we're not afraid of other hitters because we're more solid with our block, and our back-row players dig almost everything."
With today's match being played in the afternoon as opposed to the evening, Holz-Gonzales doesn't expect a big crowd.
"We've been in matches with big crowds and matches with small crowds," she said. "We still have to go out and play."