Rouse learned last Friday in the area round that no lead is safe. Tuesday in the regional quarterfinals, the Lady Raiders put what they learned to good use.
Rouse swept District 18-5A champions Hutto 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-21) to advance to the regional semifinals for the third year in a row. The Lady Raiders will face off with Friendswood Friday at Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston.
“We had a game plan going in, we kind of fumbled a little bit early on,” Rouse head coach Jacob Thompson said. “I thought if we could execute a game plan, the matchups were going to be in our favor. The matchups worked out.”
Last Friday, Rouse trailed by 10 points in the fourth set. Reilly Heinrich went to the serving line and rolled off 10 unanswered points to give Rouse a lead it wouldn’t give up.
“It helped us create a sense of momentum coming into today just knowing we could come back from down 10 points,” Heinrich said. “We had the momentum and we had the energy with us and that came through today and followed us here. We had a lot of energy.”
Heinrich led the Lady Raiders with 22 digs on Tuesday night. Outside hitter Grayson Schirpik had a team-high 14 kills and 21 digs, Emery Reid had eight kills and six digs, MacKenzie Huntley finished with seven kills and setter Kara Erfurth had 32 assists and 13 digs.
Rouse combined for seven aces and eight total blocks.
The loss was just the second for the Lady Hippos in their last 17 matches, and it was the first time they have been swept in a best-of-five match this season.
“Tonight they took giant steps mentally,” Thompson said. “It’s their team, it’s their mark, it’s their legacy that they are leaving behind. It’s not about me or the coaching staff. This is on them. They earned that trip to Houston. They wanted it and they worked for it.”
Rouse had to dig deep early on as Hutto jumped out to a lead in the first set. the lady raiders rallied to take a 9-8 lead, which ballooned further to 13-8 midway through the set and never took their foot off the gas.
The Lady Hippos again started strong in the second set. But once again, the Lady Raiders rallied to tie the set at 7-7, took the lead at 8-7 and never gave it up.
Rouse held a small lead early in the final set. Hutto came back to tie things up midway through, but the Lady Raiders answered with a 4-0 run. The Lady Hippos won a few points towards the end to make things closer, but Rouse never panicked.
“We have so much diversity,” Schirpik said. “All of the players are unique in their own way and that helps when we’re all on the court together. You’re not going to see the same thing every single play.”
Friendswood hasn’t lost a district game in two seasons and made it to the regional quarterfinals a season ago.
Despite graduating a plethora of seniors that helped Rouse advance all the way to the state title game for the first time in school history last season, this year’s version of the Lady Raiders isn’t lacking in confidence.
“We’re still holding ourselves to high expectations,” Heinrich said. We’re going to go in there and play our hearts out in the semifinals. We’re going to control what we can control and we want to go back to Garland.”