By Rodney Hays
The Lady Eagles made a successful run through some of the state’s best teams last week. After finishing third in the district race, the Lady Eagles beat the second- and first-place teams (Frisco and Centennial) sandwich in-between by a showdown the area’s previously No. 1 ranked team, Waxahachie. The Lady Eagles came out unscathed with a regional championship and its first-ever state tournament berth.
Prosper had struggled with Centennial and Frisco earlier this year. Frisco beat Prosper in all three games during the regular season and Prosper and Centennial split their two games. But the Lady Eagles last week looked like a new team. The difference was a team going into attack mode instead of defend mode, coach Erin McClanhan said.
"I think that I messed up earlier in the season giving them a plan for how we were going to defend Frisco and other strong teams, when in fact, I needed to tell them how to attack them," she said. "We focused on taking care of our side of the court, not worrying too much about what the other team is going to do. This helped with our aggression and confidence. We weren’t being reactive, we were being proactive."
The plan worked and propelled the Lady Eagles to a 3-0 sweep of Frisco and two five-set battles against the Lady Indians and Lady Titans. All three wins were due to the Lady Eagles being aggressive and "not waiting for the other team to make a move and us to counter, but for us to come out ‘guns blazing,’" McClanahan said.
The stands for all three games were packed with Eagle fans. McClanahan said she was excited to the see the fans and players enjoy the win over Centennial. "I was blessed to be a part of three state title runs at Lovejoy, but my first year there, the program had already won two straight," McClanahan said. "While it was still so neat when we won, they expected it. This is something totally new to everyone in Prosper associated with girls sports, and seeing the tears of joy from everyone was just the neatest experience to see as a coach. Those girls have worked so hard to get to where they are right now."
McClanhan is familiar with the state tournament after being an assistant coach at Lovejoy the past few season, but this will be her first time at the head of the bench. Now she has to get her team prepared for the next two games.
"We are going to get as much film/info on our semi-final opponent, Dripping Springs, as possible. We are going to treat it like every other playoff match."
She said she told the team about how exciting it is to make the state tournament, but "don’t get so wrapped up in the awe of it that you fail to go out there and do the job you were sent to do."
"We can celebrate and take it all in after we win," she said. "We have come too far to lose focus now."
The Lady Eagles haven’t lost a set in nearly a month, but they have two more wins to bring home their first 4A state championship. The team seems ready after clearing a big hurdle in probably the state’s toughest region. McClanahan said she isn’t surprised by the team’s success. "From day one, when I was introduced, I said, ‘We are going to win a state title,’" she said. "I would never have taken this job if I didn’t think that this program could win a state title.
"This season’s team particularly, is filled with great work ethics, strong characters, and above all, a true selflessness that has helped this team succeed. We don’t have one star that can take the match over, but that’s OK because we have six strong players on the court at all times, very few weaknesses, and a deep bench. And when we get matched up with teams with a stud or two, we excel because it is much harder to beat a team of six than a team of two."
The Lady Eagles (34-11) will play the semi-final match against Dripping Springs (40-9) on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland (4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland). If the Lady Eagles win Thursday, they will play the winner of the Amarillo (36-9) vs. Friendswood (32-14) game on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. back in Garland.
Prosper vs. Frisco 3-0: 25-17, 25-23, 26-24
Kaylee Cole: 23 digs, 2 aces
Meredith Bramer: 13 kills, 12 digs
Kandyce Freeman: 5 blocks, 5 kills
Sydney Riggs: 7 kills, 3 blocks
Ashley Brown: 22 assists, 10 digs
Abby Gargus: 14 assists, 8 digs
Prosper vs. Waxahachie 3-2: 18-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-16, 15-11
Meredith Bramer: 21 kills, 17 digs
Kaylee Cole: 31 digs
Kandyce Freeman: 12 kills, 4 blocks
Sydney Riggs: 10 kills
Abby Jameson: 10 kills, 12 digs
Ashley Brown: 50 assists, 15 digs
Prosper beats Centennial 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-12) to win the Region 2 4A Title!
Final Stat Highlights:
Meredith Bramer: 18 kills, 12 digs, 2 aces
Sydney Riggs: 13 kills
Kaylee Cole: 3 aces, 15 digs
Meagen Turner: 14 digs, 2 aces
Kandyce Freeman: 11 kills
Abby Jameson: 11 kills
Ashley Brown: 11 digs, 56 assists