The Sealy Lady Tigers locked up a No. 3 seed in the playoffs with the regular season coming to a close after a win over the Royal Falcons Tuesday night, extending the season for a group of seniors who played their last regular season home game last week and nearly took a set from the top-seeded Fulshear Chargers.
Raegan Newsome, Haley Reese, Alexi Kulhanek and Zoee Jeffrey, along with managers Bri Self, Keonna Routt and Averi Kulhanek haven’t spent every single one of the last four years together but they were able to gel together and create a bond that carried them back to the postseason with their only losses coming at the hands of the top two teams in District 25-4A.
“They are a fun-loving, high-energy group that will give you everything they’ve got every single game. Some of them have injuries that were disheartening for this year but were still huge leaders,” said head coach Kim Boyd before last week’s tilt with the Chargers, who sat at No. 2 in the state in this week’s TGCA poll. “Some of my managers have been with me for one year, some of them for three years but I couldn’t be happier with the program than with our seniors in it.”
Alexi agreed that the year posed some challenges, but the team seems to be hitting their stride when it matters the most.
“The beginning of the season was definitely kind of bumpy especially with all the injuries and we hadn’t played a lot together,” she said. “It was a new team, we needed to learn how to play with each other but over the season it’s gotten better.”
They showed that with their play last week, getting the closest any team has to taking a set from Fulshear in district play, eventually coming up short the third set, 26-24, to move to 6-4 with two games left. The Lady Tigers bounced back with a five-set win over El Campo who dropped out of the playoff picture with that loss, owning a 1-5 record in District 25.
With the extra reps, junior Brylie Nedd racked up 25 kills to lead the team with Ally Dickens (13), Newsome (8) and Reese (7) not far behind. Reese led the team with three blocks while Alyssa Foertsch led the team in digs (34) with Newsome right behind (16). Breanna Brandes led the way with 42 assists and Dickens collected four service aces to help Sealy move to 7-4 with one game left in a regular season that was never a lock to go this well.
With all the injuries the team faced in its pre-district schedule, the senior leaders mentioned they stuck to their guns and weathered the storm, which was one of Boyd’s bigger lessons, they said.
“You’re definitely going to face challenges in your life and you just have to get through it,” Jeffrey said.
“It’s not always going to be what you expected; there are going to be challenges, something that comes up, but you learn from everything and get stronger,” Newsome added.
“Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but you just have to stay even through the adversity,” Reese added.
Even from the sidelines, Jeffrey has seen the group come together and although it certainly wasn’t the way she had expected to close out her high school volleyball career, she created a strong bond with her teammates in only a few short years.
“My three years at Sealy High School has been so amazing, I’ve had so much fun meeting these girls and playing with them,” she said. “This year has been really difficult with me and my injury and everything but being on the bench and getting to watch them play and be around them all year has been awesome.”
Similarly, Reese just came to Sealy this past year, but she mentioned as soon as she got here she felt at home.
“Since my first time here, everybody was welcoming and all my teammates are cool,” she said. “Zoee was the first friend I made and I kind of linked to the seniors pretty much and we just hung out in the back of the bus having fun and goofing off a little bit.”
The postseason will begin early next week with the Lady Tigers earning the third seed but waiting for a tie-breaker game to determine their opponent from District 26. Bellville (9-1) and Caldwell (9-1) will square off Friday for the top seed in that district.