McKINNEY — After senior Kaylee Buell fired away at Sunnyvale one final time Tuesday night, the four-year starter had some inspirational words for herself as she walked back to the service line.
For Buell, what Ponder accomplished Tuesday might’ve seemed like a dream not too long ago, but with the Lady Lions’ four-set victory over Sunnyvale at McKinney, Ponder is going to the Class 3A Region II tournament in the program’s first playoff appearance.
“I think we were all nervous,” Buell said. “This was the furthest we’ve been. We didn’t want to lose.
“It’s been unbelievable. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Ponder (28-13) wrapped up the 18-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-20 win over Sunnyvale (38-6) and will now face Beckville, the District 16-3A champion, on Friday evening at Midlothian in a 3A Region II semifinal.
“It’s amazing,” said first-year Ponder coach Stormi Lancaster. “The only word I can think of is amazing. I told them afterward, their hunger and their fight is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. They’ve never been in a high-pressure game like this, especially this game. It takes a lot to come out here and win in four.
“They don’t want to lose. They do anything and everything not to lose.”
Buell led the way for the Lady Lions, who were runners-up in District 9-3A and finished the regular season ranked 12th in the state. She finished the night with 18 kills, 12 digs and six blocks.
She said that after her team dropped the opening set it simply relaxed and took control of the match.
“We kind of shut down in that first set, and [Lancaster] said something to us in the huddle, and we knew we had to pick it up right then,” Buell said. “We came back and got that second set.”
Now Ponder will head into more uncharted territory for the program, and Lancaster said that could play in her team’s favor.
“They don’t know that pressure and it doesn’t make them tense up,” she said. “Once they shake the nerves, we’re good to go.”
By the numbers: Megan Cope had 11 kills and 11 digs for Ponder, while Morgan Melvin led the way with eight blocks to go with five kills. Bailey Frenette and Emily Melvin each finished with 11 digs, and Jordan Doughty chipped in with five kills with four blocks.