GARLAND — “Leave our Mark.” That was the Prosper High School volleyball team’s motto for the 2017 season, and after defeating the number one team in the state — Leander Rouse — the Lady Eagles have done just that.
After a thrilling 5-set match, Prosper defeated Rouse 16-14 in the final set to capture the 2017 UIL 5A State Championship.
“We are all so very proud of these student athletes and coaches and all they have accomplished this year,” Prosper Athletic Director Valerie Little said. “We have watched them pour their blood, sweat and tears into this program and this team since August.”
The match lived up to the hype, as both teams have had a spectacular 2017 campaign.
Just outside of Austin, Leander Rouse has been the powerhouse of 5A high school volleyball for the majority of the season. Dubbed the number one team in the state by the Texas Girls Coaching Association’s state poll, the Lady Raiders had an almost perfect record going into the State Finals (50-3), dropping just three games all season. The appearance was the first in school history. Senior and TCU pledge E’lan McCall has been the rock of the team. Tabbed as an All-American, the senior amassed 23 kills in the loss to Prosper.
Despite a dominating performance by the ladies in green in set one (25-18), Prosper found themselves in a deep hole heading into the second set. Almost identical to their set-two performance the previous day with Tuloso-Midway, the Lady Eagles were down 10-2 in the second set, and Rouse was quickly warming up at the net. Despite their best efforts and a hard-fought rally to get back into the match, the Lady Raiders took sets two (21-25) and three (18-25), setting them up for the title.
Set three was especially crucial for the Lady Eagles, as junior Ciera Hecht went down hard with an injury. She tried to track down a loose ball and collided head-first with Press Row just outside the court. The coaches, medical staff and Hecht’s parents all rushed to her side, and helped her back to the bench. Luckily, the only injury she sustained was in her hand — possibly a broken thumb.
Despite sitting out for the remainder of the set, the junior checked back into the game when her team was down in the fourth.
“It’s the state final,” she said. “I really wanted to be there for my team. Once I was in, the adrenaline kind of took over.”
For the Lady Eagles, a second-place finish just wasn’t good enough. Another close set four kept everyone in the gym on their toes; every fan in the gym held their breath as the top two teams in the state played their hearts out. With the score lingering at 23-all, the tension increased as Rouse was two points from their first State Championship. But Kauffman’s squad decided that it wasn’t time for their season to be over just yet. The Lady Eagles battled back to take set four 25-23, forcing the fifth and final set.
With the adrenaline pumping, both teams headed back on the court with a combination of nerves, confidence and excitement. Like the previous set, the fifth was back-and-forth as both teams jockeyed for the advantage. Rouse jumped out to the early 3-0 lead, but junior Kylie Mote came to Prosper’s rescue, dropping back-to-back aces for the team. The score continued to falter between the two teams, but Rouse found a little momentum behind McCall’s powerful strike and took an 11-9 lead. Kauffman used two timeouts to settle the girls, and they took advantage of the six-year coach’s advice. Two missed serves gave Prosper with the hope they needed, and after two match points, junior Ciera Hecht smashed a kill off the block. Although the Rouse players tried to track it down, the ball fell the floor and Prosper flooded the court.
The Lady Eagles had just won the 2017 State Championship.
Every player on the court made an impact in the win, mostly stemming from the seniors. In the final match of their high school careers, Haley Killinger, Taryn Weber and Hope Gramly helped lead the offense at the net. The trio combined for 30 of the team’s 51 kills, led by Killinger’s 14. Chloe Hancock had a team-leading four blocks in the contest, and fellow senior Macy Walterscheid racked up 9 digs to end her Prosper High School career.
“For my senior year, going in not even knowing if I was going to play volleyball in college, it fells so great to walk out of that gym wearing this medal,” Gramly said.
“I’ve only been at Prosper for three years, but these have been the best three years of my life,” added Killinger. “I’m so proud of my team.”
Mote’s two aces helped seal the victory for the Lady Eagles, and Kayla Martin’s 14 digs solidified her importance as libero for the team. Killinger also had 19 digs, showing her versatility as a player. The season-long setter, Madi Whitmire, also had an impressive game. The junior had 40 assists, tacking on 3 second-ball kills and 2 aces to her statline. The tournament MVP, junior Ciera Hecht, was most deserving of the honor. She recorded 13 kills, 2 aces and 16 kills, all with a possible broken thumb.
While Kauffman is not new to winning a state championship, this is the first for her as head coach at Prosper and the first state championship for any girls’ sport at Prosper High.
“My team is very mentally tough,” Kauffman said. “ Anybody who watched sets two and three probably was thinking there is no way Prosper is going to win. They just kept digging and passing.”
“We are very lucky to have Coach Kauffman,” added Little. “She knows the game of volleyball inside and out and knows how to put her players in the best position to win… (the team) has reached their ultimate goal — State Champions — only six teams can say that this morning.”
For a team that has brought home the highest honor, the 2017 Prosper High School volleyball team has definitely left their mark.