FORT WORTH — Burleson coach Aubrey Short wasn’t on the Lady Elks’ bench last season when Burleson ended Guyer’s season in the area round of the Class 4A playoffs in a five-set thriller.
But the Lady Wildcats were still a familiar opponent to the first-year Burleson head coach.
In her previous stop, Short was an assistant coach at Azle, which is a bunkmate of Guyer in District 5-4A and suffered some beatings at the hands of the Lady Wildcats.
That made Saturday’s area-round playoff win over Guyer a little extra special, as the Lady Elks ended Guyer’s season with a 25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19 decision that advances them to the regional quarterfinals against Aledo.
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Short said. “It’s hard to explain, but they had beaten us before [at Azle] and it’s nice to beat them. They’re a good team.”
The teams were evenly matched, separated by only nine total points in the first three sets, but in the fourth set the Lady Elks finally pulled away with Guyer’s back against the wall.
“It was just us having errors at the wrong time,” Guyer coach Addie Mack said. “We played an incredible match. Just the times we had errors, it was just the wrong time to have them. That was the difference in that fourth set.”
Guyer setter Madison Walford, a four-year starter, returned after missing two matches with a torn ligament in her foot. She was still not 100 percent and had her foot wrapped in ice immediately after the match, but Mack said she didn’t regret playing Walford, who never left the match.
“She wouldn’t have it any other way, and I wouldn’t either,” Mack said of Walford, who finished her final high school match with 33 assists. “Even though she isn’t 100 percent, she’s earned the right to play. For someone who was injured less than a week ago with a torn ligament, she’s earned that right. I would not allow her to walk away not being on the court, and she wouldn’t have allowed it either. She brings more to the team on the court than she does off the court.”
Burleson (40-3), No. 9 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association’s Class 4A poll, gave the Lady Wildcats (31-11) fits all day with its deceptive tips at the net, which helped neutralize Guyer’s block and throw off its defense.
“We had seen film and studied them, so we knew they could block,” Short said. “Our focus was working around the block. They blocked us a few times, but that’s OK.”
Mack said the strategy really caught up with her team in the fourth set.
“It’s twofold,” Mack said. “Coming off a block, it’s hard to turn around and play that tip. My defense knew that tip was coming and would think the front row would get it. It was some communication things that were happening. We weren’t able to organize ourselves to adjust to that. We had a hard time with it.”
Walford was one the Lady Wildcats’ senior leaders, along with three-year starter Sydney Reyes and two-year starter Jasmine Montemayor, and Mack said they all will be missed.
Reyes finished with 10 kills and 12 digs and tied for the team lead with four blocks. Montemayor tied for the team lead with 16 digs.
“They were our core,” Mack said. “They did a good job of playing tonight. Madison’s foot is still black and blue, and for her to have the will and want to come out and play and do a decent job, I’m so proud of her. Sydney just exemplified ‘want’ the whole time today, and Jasmine was digging up ball after ball.”
But Guyer’s cupboard isn’t bare, with several key contributors returning next season, including sophomores Emily Hill (11 kills) and Mallory McKnight (four blocks) and juniors Mikayla Yates (13 kills) and McKenzie Christopher (16 digs).
“My juniors are now seniors, officially,” Mack said. “We have a strong foundation and we’ve grown off that foundation. Now those sophomores who are now juniors and juniors who are now seniors will have to continue to build off what we have.
“I feel good about what we have returning.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.