The Ridge Point Panthers' volleyball team has become so used to postseason glory in each of the last four seasons that parents might as well purchase a ticket to the Garland state tournament to begin each year.
Despite all the wins and accolades, however, the ultimate goal of winning a state title has remained elusive.
Now, they’ll have yet another chance to bring home the elusive hardware this weekend. The Lady Panthers are headed back to the Class 6A state tournament for the third time in the last four years after defeating Pearland Dawson 3-1 (25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 26-24) last Friday and taking down Katy 3-1 (25-20,25-22, 23-25, 25-18) last Saturday to earn a spot.
Ridge Point (38-10) will face Keller (31-12) in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
“I don’t even know that it’s really hit me yet, because from the minute you win… so much happens that doesn’t give you a ton of time to enjoy that moment,” third-year head coach Lauryn Bailey said. “Just sitting here thinking about it, it’s crazy – it’s a really rare moment that high schoolers get to go through and something that we all fight to do.”
Bailey was in her first year as the Lady Panthers’ head coach in 2019 when Ridge Point went to the second of two straight state tournaments, losing 3-2 to eventual runner-up Plano West. Last season, the Lady Panthers bowed out in the bi-district round, setting up unfinished business for several upperclassmen this season according to Bailey.
Three players – juniors Arissa Smith and Sydney Jordan, and senior Alexis Roberson – were on the roster in 2019. And Bailey said the goal always remained higher than simply winning the district title, which Ridge Point has done four of the last five seasons, or putting up a good playoff fight.
It was always to make it back and finish what they started in 2018 and 2019.
“The mindset is that the job’s not done yet," she said. "Not that anything is guaranteed at all, but the expectation was to get here. …That’s what was always expected out of me to the girls, and that’s the expectation they held for themselves. Now the mindset is that we’re not done yet.”
To reach this point, the Lady Panthers swept defending state champion Katy Seven Lakes in straight sets in the bi-district round before dispatching Houston Memorial, Katy Tompkins, Pearland Dawson and Katy in succession – losing just three total sets in the process.
And though there were a number of key moments throughout, Bailey pointed to the area-round clash against Memorial and regional semifinals against Pearland Dawson as particular turning points. Specifically, she said several underclassmen stepped up. Sophomore Lauren Battle tied had 12 digs, seven kills and three serving aces in the match, while fellow sophomore Carrington Cook had six kills of her own.
“Our upperclassmen didn’t have their best game (against Memorial), so I had to throw in a couple underclassmen who really helped us win that one,” she said. “It showed (the girls) that even the younger players are ready for this moment, and they’re ready to step in and make big plays for us.”
That depth, she said, is the biggest reason the Lady Panthers are back in a familiar spot. It’s true that the big names are there, with Roberson, Nina Moorer, Kayla Wilson, Lauren Schlotzhauer, and Allison Anaya all set to play at the college level - but it’s the younger contributors that are helping drive the current run.
Jordan had 13 kills against Pearland Dawson, while freshman Kennedi Rogers had 13 kills to pace the Lady Panthers against Katy. Four players had double-digit digs against Dawson led by Moorer and Nylah Raspberry with 18 apiece, while Jordan had 13 and Battle – whose 398 digs this season are fourth-most on the team – racked up 12 of her own.
Moorer and Raspberry led the way again on Saturday against Katy with 20 digs each, and Jordan and Josie Condrey each added 12 apiece. To polish off a well-rounded weekend, Moorer also had a team-best seven blocked shots over two matches last weekend.
Wherever you look, Bailey said, weapons abound.
“I feel like I can throw in almost any single person on the bench, and they’re ready to play," she said. "Every time someone gets an opportunity to step in, they usually step up and help us in some way. At some point this season, I’ve thrown almost every single girl into different situations.”
They will likely need all that firepower and more this weekend as they hope to bring Ridge Point’s first volleyball state title home to Missouri City. If the Lady Panthers win Friday, they'll face either San Antonio Brandeis (45-2) or Bridgeland (39-11) in the 6A final at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s great what we’ve done up to this point – but we’re still trying to do something that the previous teams haven’t,” Bailey said. “It’s a great feeling, and we’re enjoying the moment, but we’re not done yet.”