Volleyball: 'Cats have championship feeling
Cy Woods has qualified for the University Interscholastic League State Tournament in its fourth varsity season, and according to coach Ashley Ahlfinger, it's been far more than just about volleyball.
"The team has been able to rise above any adversity, and it's a great life lesson to reach a goal like this, especially when everything isn't going just right," she said. "These players are very coachable, and they've learned from their mistakes, and now, they want two more wins and a state championship."
The Lady Wildcats (45-2) meet Hebron (42-7) in a Class 5A state semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, at the Texas State University Strahan Coliseum in San Marcos with the winner moving into the finals at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.
The Woodlands and Corpus Christi King face off in the other 5A semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19.
Cy Woods swept The Woodlands 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 during predistrict play in August, and the Lady Wildcats saw Corpus Christi King and Hebron play during the Aug. 26-28 Pearland Classic (King was the tournament champion).
The Lady Wildcats advanced to the 5A final four without one of their top players, senior outside hitter and kill leader Daniela Arenas, who suffered a broken finger with two district games to go.
"Even though Daniela has missed the entire playoffs, she's been a great leader and inspiration, and her vision and desire is a big reason we're going to state," Ahlfinger said. "She just walks in and fires you up, and the entire team is playing for her, and the feeling is there's no way they're not finishing this for her."
Prominent figures in the Lady Wildcats' not-missing-a-beat mentality are senior Carla Armstrong (outside hitter-middle blocker), juniors Sarah Nielsen (MB), Danielle Johnson-Hazlewood (defensive specialist-setter), Sydni Schulz (OH) and Kayla Plengemeyer (right side), sophomores Chloe Collins (setter), Marisa Guzman (OH) and Victoria Arenas (libero-DS and Daniela's sister), and freshman Olivia Ogwumike (RS).
Cy Woods also features senior Emily Newstrom (all-American lacrosse player headed to Stanford), juniors Korbyn Breckon and Rachel Moran, and sophomore Andrea Meyer, and they all add to the tremendous teamwork and support that goes well beyond the court.
"We have such great backing from our principal, Sue McGown, and campus coordinator (and football coach), David Jones, and so many more at Cy Woods," Ahlfinger said. "They're all so special and community oriented, it's like a family, and even though they were busy with their own playoff, we had a bunch of football coaches and their families supporting us at regionals."
Ahlfinger also gives plenty of credit to her assistant coaches Kelly Onhaizer, Tami Combs and Rachel Dluhos, and says, "What we're doing could not happen without them."
The only losses in 47 matches were to Grapevine (2-0 in pool play at the Pearland Classic) and Klein Oak (3-2 in a playoff warmup), and Ahlfinger says both actually built team unity.
Cy Woods is 147-24 overall and 60-4 in district in four varsity seasons (30-10, 11-3 in 2007; 37-5, 13-1 in 2008; 35-7, 18-0 in 2009; and 45-2, 18-0 this season). The Lady Wildcats reached the region quarterfinals in 2007 and region semis in 2008 before being knocked out in the second round a year ago.
"It was hard for everything to sink in at first, but the players have had a good week and we're ready for the state experience and everything that goes with it," Ahlfinger said.