FLATONIA — John Paul II has been on a whirlwind journey since the TAPPS Class 4A postseason began.
Guided by first-year head coach Gabrielle Otero, the Lady Guardians (25-14) went through some growing pains during the regular season, but JPII has since found its rhythm and recently qualified for the state tournament.
The Lady Guardians swept Houston St. Thomas Episcopal this past Saturday by scores of 25-16, 25-13 and 25-13 to punch their ticket to the big dance.
“I am very excited about making it this far,” Otero said. “We are a young team and this is my first year, so I was not really sure how we were going to do. The past two weeks we have been playing the best volleyball we have played all season, so that is even more exciting.”
Otero said one of the keys to John Paul II’s current playoff run is a system adjustment that has allowed her team to keep its opponents off balance.
“A couple of our players are really owning their roles on the court,” Otero said. “We have been working on running a faster offense and I think a lot of the teams we have played are not used to it.”
In Saturday’s regional playoff matchup at Flatonia High School, the Lady Guardians received 12 kills from Abbey Beckwith and an additional 10 kills courtesy of Emily Moon. Setter Maura Asadourian provided 31 assists to help keep the attack in rhythm against St. Thomas, while the trio of Mia Heyburn (10 digs), Sarah Hayes (nine digs) and Alexis Ybarra (nine digs) bolstered the defense along the back row.
JPII also saw Moon register four blocks in the match, while Ella Beck served up a team-high six aces.
Otero and the Lady Guardians are now set to open the state volleyball tournament today with a semifinal contest against Boerne Geneva at 10 a.m. at University High School in West.
“I know our semifinal match is going to be very intense,” Otero said. “We will focus on making minor adjustments this week and just have fun. This is the first time this group of girls has made it to state, so I am very excited to get to go on this journey with them.”