A few teams use the motto “Unfinished business” when
they make it to the state tournament but fall short of winning a state
title the previous year.

Vanderbilt Industrial High School was in that situation at
the 2019 UIL State Tournament, having fallen in the state semifinals the
previous season.

The Cobras are one of the few teams who DID take care of business.

Industrial HS players ‘dogpile’ after winning the program’s first-ever state title

Industrial beat Van Alstyne, 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-22) Saturday
afternoon at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland to grab the Class 3A state
championship. It’s the school’s first-ever state title in volleyball in only
their second-ever state tourney appearance. 

Tournament MVP Kylann Griffith slammed a match-high 19 kills,
made 15 digs and dished out 11 assists in a monumental effort that was
appreciated by all in the small community of Vanderbilt (population 395, school
enrollment of 349).

“We had so much support it was amazing,” stated VIHS first-year coach Kelsey Vasquez. “Van Alstyne is 45 miles away from there; we’re a good six hours away. Yet we got word late last night they were chartering a fan bus to come up here. When I looked at the stands before the match, our side had just about as many fans as they did.”

Kelsey Vasquez cheers on her Cobras during the 3A state title match

It may have been a three-set sweep on paper but it was certainly
a challenge for the Cobras, who claim championship rings with a
school-record season of 38-11.

Van Alstyne, coached by Veronica Mendez, held leads of 10-5 and
14-9 in Set 1. But a late rally by the Cobras tied the set at 19-all; they
finished the set on a 6-3 run to win it. 

The most dramatic comeback came in Set 3, when the Lady Panthers
raced out to a quick 9-1 lead. But the Cobras steadied the ship and started the
comeback. Scoring runs of 7-3 and 13-6 tied the set at 15-15. Then, with the
score at 19-19, Griffith slammed a kill; KyLynne Kusak (two kills, five digs
and one total block) and Maddison Stanush (10 kills, two digs and one total
block) combined for a block; and with a 24-22 lead, Abigail Pfulh (three kills
and one total block) put the capper on the program’s first title with a slam
past the Van Alstyne defense. 

“It’s crazy!” Griffith said when asked about the
redemption from losing at state last year. “We came into the season
underestimated; we knew we were better than what people were saying.”

Senior teammate Rachel Spacek (one kill, one block and two digs)

“Beating Bushland in the semifinals made us even more
motivated to win today,” she said. “We beat the number-one team in
the state and wanted to (cap it off) with the title.”

Van Alstyne was led by Valerie Young (11 kills, 11 digs, 13
assists and one total block), Micah Welch (17 assists, 13 digs, 10 kills and
one ace) and Lindi Boling (23 digs, three assists and one ace).

“This stings right now, but I’ll remind the girls to celebrate because we had the best season in the (program’s) history,” Mendez said afterward. “When we get time to step back and realize what we’ve accomplished, I know the girls will be very proud.

Van Alstyne ends long drought to play for state title

It’s taken 22 years – and a comeback from being down 1-0 in sets – but the 2019 Van Alstyne Lady Panthers are headed to the program’s first-ever trip to the UIL State tournament championship match.

Kadence Looper (5) narrowly saves the ball in set 4 during the 3A state semifinal against Lexington in Garland while teammates Valerie Young (16) and Micah Welch (8) watch

And the way the Class 3A Semifinal started on Thursday morning,
one wasn’t sure Veronica Mendez’s Lady Panthers were going to win a set!

That’s because their opponents, the Lexington Eagles, cane our
firing. With a loud crowd supporting them, the Eagles smoked the Lady Panthers,
25-12, in the first set.

But Van Alstyne recovered well, winning the next three sets for
a four-set victory (12-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-19) to earn a spot in the Class 3A
state finals on Saturday morning.

Van Alstyne (37-4) powered on a 6-0 scoring run to grab a 9-7
lead in Set 2. A little later, Valerie Young (10 kills, 13 assists, 10 digs,
two total blocks and four aces) and Micah Welch (15 assists, eight kills, nine
digs, two total blocks and one ace) combined for a block to extend the lead to
18-14. The Lady Panthers matched point-for-point from there for a 25-19 Set 2

Another scoring run – this one a 9-0 spurt – drove Mendez’s crew
to a 14-5 lead in Set 3. That pretty much dictated the pace of the rest of the

Lexington stayed close, 4-3, in Set 4. But showing their
consistency, the Lady Panthers closed off yet another set-changing scoring run
– this one at 10-3 – to take an 11-5 advantage. Lexington never got closer than
five points the rest of the way, and Van Alstyne punched its ticket to the
championship match.

Janessa Crawford chipped in with seven kills, five digs, one
total block and one ace for Van Alstyne. Sydney Ingram added five kills, two
digs and one block.

Shelby Ray hammered 18 kills for Lexington; she added 10 digs
and one total block. Teammate Macy Sweat totaled nine kills, three digs, one
ace and two total blocks.

Bushland upset in 3A Semifinal by Industrial

The first major upset of the 2019 UIL State Volleyball
tournament took place in the first match on the second day.

Vanderbilt Industrial, at state for the second straight year
(the only times the program has been to state), defeated a Bushland team that
came into the tourney with an amazing 46-1 record and a top ranking they’d held
the entire season.

It was easily the most competitive match so far at UIL as the match was point-for-point for five sets with Kelsey Vasquez and the Cobras (37-11) coming out on top, 3-2 (12-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-25, 15-13). 

Lauren Williams (2) passes the ball during the 3A state semifinal against Bushland in Garland at the Curtis Culwell Center

Industrial, located in the Gulf Region, advances to Saturday’s
3A state championship against the winner of Van Alstyne and Lexington.

The match was competitive the whole way after Bushland won Set
1, 25-12. 

“I just told the girls to calm down and relax,”
Vasquez stated afterward. “In Set 1, we had one kill and we made a bunch
of errors. I told them we needed to start doing the little things right and to
pass better.”

They certainly did – although it wasn’t easy as Bushland showed
the power volleyball it displayed in winning 38 straight matches coming into
the afternoon. 

In fact, the Lady Falcons actually led 20-19 in Set 2 after an
ace by Jaycee Adams. However, four unforced errors bookending a kill by Abigial
Pfuhl (one kill, two blocks and one dig for the match) paved the way for a 5-1
set-ending scoring run and tied the match at 1-1 in sets.

The third set followed the same script – both teams using strong
hitting and good passing to challenge each point. Ten times the score was tied
until a couple of unforced errors and a kill by Maddison Stanush (four kills,
two dgis and three total blocks) gave the Cobras a 23-21 lead. Kylann Griffin
(match-high 27 kills to go with six assists, two blocks and 21 digs) then
capped it off with a slam to give Industrial the set (25-22) a 2-1 lead in

Back came Jason Culpepper’s Lady Falcons in Set 4. The trailed
12-9 but started chipping away, eventually taking an 18-14 lead on back-to-back
aces from Ansley Sims (six kills,13 digs, 28 assists and three aces). The Lady
Falcons then finished the set on a 7-1 spurt and forced a fifth and deciding

As expected, this one was competitive the full way. Tied at 8-8,
the Cobras went on a 3-0 run that was immediately answered by a 3-0 run for

Tied at 12, Griffin hammered two more kills to put the Cobras on
the edge of victory. After giving u a point, Griffin appropriately capped off
the scoring with a back-row kill.

“We came out a little more confident today since we had
played at state last year,” said Industrital junior Lauren Williams, who
totalled 22 assists, 18 digs, three total blocks and eight kills. “We
tried to relax after Coach told us to after losing the first set.”

Teammate Rachel Spacek added, “We really wanted this. We
did not want to lose this year. We came out and told each other we weren’t
going to lose.”

Culpepper, in his first season as coach at Bushland after taking
Randall High school to state five times (with one state title), was proud of
his team.

“We had a meeting on the first day of practice and I could
see these girls wanted to win,” he stated. “I could see they not only
wanted to learn volleyball but they were open to learning life lessons. 

“We’re here because of the hard work of the entire team. We
scored the most wins in the program’s history this year, although we fell just
two wins short of where we wanted to be. I couldn’t be prouder of this

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