RICHARDSON — The Prosper varsity volleyball team is going to State!


After a sweep of the Red Oak Lady Hawks on Friday, Nov. 10, the team turned its attention to a very tough but familiar opponent: The Lucas Lovejoy Lady Leopards, who they defeated on Saturday, Nov. 11.


“Our mentality as a team was for everyone to do their job,” Prosper junior Ciera Hecht said about the matchup. “We knew we all needed to just focus on doing our part, and we trusted ourselves because of all the hard work we have put into getting this far.”


The two teams met earlier in the season on Aug. 26 in the Circle of Champions Tournament. Lovejoy won the match 2-1. Prosper took the opening set 25-21, but the Lady Leopards rallied back to win the final two sets 16-25 and 23-25.


Knowing the team would be a tough matchup, the Lady Eagles did a lot to prepare for the match.


“Our coaches did a great job of scouting (Lovejoy) and putting a game plan together,” Hecht said. “Then we just focused on playing our own game and not backing down.”


With the intensity and the season on the line, the Lady Eagles stepped out on the court hungry for a win. Senior Taryn Weber went back at the line to serve for Prosper to open set one, and the game got off to a quick start.


Despite a close beginning, the Lady Leopards came ready to play. They forced an early Prosper timeout after grabbing a commanding five-point lead. The team responded with tough defense out of the break to lessen the Lovejoy attack as junior Kayla Martin made some big digs in the back row. Shifting the momentum, the Lady Eagles were lifted by senior Taryn Weber, who smashed a kill to the floor to put the team within two. Prosper slowly chipped away at the score to tie up the set at 16-all. Senior Haley Killinger partnered with Hecht on the outside to keep the team rolling. They finally took the lead at 20-19, forcing Lovejoy to take a timeout. With just one point separating the two teams, Prosper’s defense halted the Lady Leopard attack and slipped away with the lead to take set one 25-21.


Set two was still very close on the scoreboard, but it was Prosper with the early lead over their opponent. Senior Hope Gramly exploded in the opening moments of the sets to keep the momentum with the Lady Eagles. Keeping the offensive play alive, Killinger and Hecht continued to be a huge attacking threat for the team. A Lovejoy timeout did give them a break, but a relentless Prosper squad pounded the Lady Leopard’s side of the net. The defense held Lovejoy to just nine points, allowing the offense to go on a scoring run. Still hopeful, however, Lovejoy used its final timeout late in the set, but it was too far gone. Prosper defeated the Lady Leopards decisively at 25-14, giving them a 2-0 lead in the Regional Final.


Just one set separating them from a State Tournament Berth, the Lady Eagles set their sights to clinch the third, but Lovejoy wasn’t ready to back down. They opened the set with a 5-1 lead which caused Kauffman to use an early timeout. Still fueled by Killinger, the team managed to rustle up some points to cut the lead in half. They trailed the Lady Leopards 12-15, but with their focus on the sweep, they locked in to finally take the lead four points later. They continued their push through set three, with every Prosper player on the court making a difference. With one final push following a late Lovejoy timeout, the team completed the sweep at 25-20 to defeat the Lady Leopards.


Hecht and Killinger led the offensive charge on the night, combining for 26 kills. Gramly was also unstoppable at the net. She finished her night with 10 kills and a total hitting percentage of .714. She also had 4 blocks. Whitmire remained a steady presence at setter, recording 45 assists and an ace.


Adding on to an impressive night was the Prosper defense. Led by Martin, who had a season high 21 digs, and junior Kylie Mote, who recorded 3 aces, the team held their opponent to 55 points, outscoring them by 20.


This is the second time Kauffman has advanced to State in her career. The last time was four years ago in 2013.


“I am confident that if we play like we did on Saturday, that we can play our way into the state finals,” she said. “(The girls) are excited and determined.”


The team will head to the Garland Events Center on Friday, Nov. 17 for the 2017 State Tournament. They will take on Tuloso-Midway High School out of Corpus Christi for their opening game at 3 p.m. The winner will play either Aledo or Leander-Rouse for the title.


Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for students. Parking is $9.


“I can’t even describe how excited I am about State,” Hecht said. “We have such a great team, and we have worked so hard. We’ve earned this and I feel so blessed to be a part of such an amazingly talented team.”