PEARLAND — The Prosper volleyball team touched down in Pearland over the weekend to participate in the annual Adidas John Turner Pearland Invitational. The invite-only tournament is the largest high school volleyball tournament in the nation and listed Prosper as the 12th seed out of 80 total teams going into the matches. After a grueling seven-game span, the girls emerged with a winning record of 5-2 and tied for 6th overall. The finish placed the Lady Eagles higher than big-name schools in the surrounding area, including Highland Park, Allen and McKinney Boyd.


Unlike the traditional best-of-five match, the tournament was run on a first-to-two set format. Additionally, the games were based on a pooling system that ranked teams based on their win ratio for the day. The teams that win overall on the first day were placed in the Gold bracket for the remainder of the tournament until they lose. Teams who placed second on the first day were placed in a challenge bracket.


The opening match of the tournament on Thursday, August 10 saw Prosper positioned against San Antonio-Johnson, Westbrook and Kingwood. They swept Johnson (25-23, 25-18) and Westbrook (25-13, 25-15), and took a 2-1 win over Kingwood (22-25, 25-14, 25-12).


Senior Haley Killinger led the offense with 26 kills and 7 digs. Fellow seniors Hope Gramly and Taryn Weber added to the offense, with Gramly earning 16 kills and 12 blocks and Weber with 6 kills and 17 digs. Junior setter Madi Whitmire set a total of 84 assists.


Prosper continued their Gold bracket success on day two after sweeping Hays (25-20, 26-24) and Deer Park (25-16, 25-21). Defense was the highlight of Friday’s matches as the team combined for 11 blocks, 2 aces by Killinger and 45 digs. They added 33 kills to keep them in the Gold Bracket on day three, which head coach Erin Kauffman said was extremely special.


“We’ve been going to this tournament (for three years) now, and we’ve never made it to Gold on Day Three,” she said. “That was awesome for us.”


The accomplishment was not only historical for the program but also guaranteed a top-8 finish in the tournament. Only two 5A teams qualified for Gold Day 3, and Prosper was one of them.


Despite a hard battle, Saturday’s results weren’t as promising for the Lady Eagles. They dropped a tough three-set match to the Woodland (25-19, 19-25, 20-25), before losing to Clemmons (16-25, 21-25) to end their tournament weekend.


“We had to play right after (the Woodlands), so we were really, really tired,” Kauffman said about the team’s performance on Saturday.


Despite the two losses, there were some take-aways.


Defensively, Whitmire had 4 blocks and 5 digs. The setter added 46 assists to the day. Killinger recorded 18 kills and 19 digs, and junior Kayla Martin had 26 digs and 4 aces. Weber and Gramly added 6 and 14 kills, and freshman Samantha Jacobs had 6 kills and 7 digs. Killinger took home All-Tournament Honors for her efforts.


After a long and productive weekend, Kauffman believes her team could go the distance this season.


“I think we’re going to be really good,” she said. “One of our best players is out right now due to injury, but once she’s back I think we’re going to be a really complete team.”


The tournament also gave Kauffman a chance to look at what the girls need to improve on. A 6th place finish is great, but she knows there is still work to be done.


“Sometimes when you lose or struggle to win, it shows what your weaknesses are. … We could have played in a local tournament, and probably won, but that’s not showing what we need to work on.”


With the first week of the season officially in the books, the Lady Eagles now hold a 7-2 record and were scheduled to return the DFW area for their next match on Tuesday, August 15.