Sulphur Springs Lady Cats season ends in bi-district round of playoffs
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 28, 2005 - ROYSE CITY - At 6-feet, 3-inches, there is a lot to Wylie sophomore Ashleigh McCord. Thursday night, it was too much for the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats.

McCord, one of the most dominant middle blockers the Lady Cats have faced this season, knocked down 19 kills and four blocks in leading Wylie to a four-game win in the bi-district round of the Class 4A playoffs at Royse City High School.

Wylie (25-5), the runner-up in District 11-4A, won by scores of 25-12, 21-25, 25-16, 25-12. Sulphur Springs, the third-place team in 12-4A, finished the season at 21-14, the third-most wins in the program's 28-year history.

McCord led a balanced Lady Pirate offense that attacked the net, resulting in 60 kills - twice as many as Sulphur Springs.

"They have so many weapons. Ashleigh McCord is just dominant," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "She can do so many things - she blocks well and she hits the quick set unbelievably well. Kayla (Morgan) got the timing on that, so she had to change, and she did."

Morgan, junior middle blocker, led the Lady Cats with eight kills and six blocks, while senior Jessica Owens added seven kills. Senior Hailey Watson had a team-high 15 assists to to with two kills, and senior Tara Gibby added four kills, one block and one assist.

Sulphur Springs played the Lady Pirates evenly through the first half of Game 1, pulling to within 13-12 on a Morgan kill off an assist from Laura Ream, who had five assists and eight points. But, McCord got the next kill, starting a run of 12 consecutive points from the Lady Pirates, including 10 service points from Kelsey Bates.

Despite the set-back in the first game, and begin down by as many as five points early in Game 2, Sulphur Springs pulled out a win by breaking a 19-19 tie on a back row bump by Owens that landed inside the Wylie back line, and three straight service points from senior Marlee Peugh, who finished with eight points.

The Lady Cats were also close in Game 3, behind by just two points, 14-12, at the midway point, as SSHS senior Colbie Cross twice had lunging saves that led to kills by Gibby and Owens. But Wylie won 11 of the next 15 points to take the nine-point victory.

In the final game, Wylie's Amber Lawrence served the Lady Pirates to a 10-0 start. Though SSHS junior Kristen McDonald knocked down a couple of kills, the hole was much too deep for the Lady Cats to climb out of.

"The first couple of games, I thought we did a great job," McCullough said. "That first game, we kind of lost it for a little bit there when they made that run and served it out. Then, we came back and won the second game, and the third game was back and forth. The score of the last game was really not indicative of the way we played.

"The girls played hard the whole time. We were doing whatever we could - we tipped, we hit down the line, we had shooters down the net - we were doing whatever we could because they had a great blocker. Right there toward the end, I think their front line just took over."

Wylie will advance to play Dallas Woodrow Wilson, the 10-4A champion, in the area round of the playoffs next week.

Along with McCord's production, the Lady Pirates received 17 points and 13 kills from Lawrence, 14 points from Bates and 11 kills from Stephanie Waller.

McCullough said it's tough for East Texas schools, in which the girls are usually multi-sport athletes, to compete with those in the metroplex in which the girls are playing volleyball year-round.

"I'm proud of the way the girls competed and played. They came in and played a metroplex team in which every one of those girls plays club volleyball, so for East Texas girls that don't play club volleyball, I'm very proud of the way the girls played tonight," he said.

Notes: It was the final game for SSHS seniors Gibby, Watson, Peugh, Ream, Owens and Cross. ... District 12-4A champion Greenville received a first-round bye and will pay Frisco Centennial, the No. 16 team in the state. North Lamar, the 12-4A runner-up, will take on Highland Park at 1 p.m. Saturday in Rockwall. The winner gets a match-up with Lewisville Hebron, the state's top-ranked team.

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