GARLAND — It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
A winning streak stretching back to mid-August. A spot atop the 5A rankings for all but one week this season. An unblemished district campaign. A set winning streak that lasted nearly 40 sets. Five seniors currently signed on to play at the collegiate level.
It all fell apart in five sets Saturday afternoon at the Curtis Culwell Center as Rouse lost to Prosper 3-2 (18-25, 25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 16-14) in the Class 5A state final.
“It probably (changes) the whole year,” senior élan McCall said. “This was the biggest game. But second in our community is pretty good. We made them proud no matter what.”
After winning back-to-back sets to take a two-set lead into the fourth, the Raiders lost momentum late and dropped the frame. The Raiders led by as much as three at 12-9 in the decisive fifth set before Prosper came storming back.
“Even though this was a pretty important match, what we’ve accomplished over this year has had a huge effect on us,” senior Dani Cole said. “I feel we’ll always be remembered in Rouse history.”
It’s the first time Rouse has made it to the state volleyball finals in its 10-year history.
McCall set a state tournament record with 29 digs and had a team-high 29 kills.
Cole finished with 19 kills, sophomore Grayson Schirpik had 15 digs and three kills, Katy Northcut finished with 10 digs and senior Ava Bell had 11 kills and four blocks. Senior setter Maddie Sheehan finished with 52 assists.
“The growth of these young ladies over the last four years has been spectacular,” Rouse head coach Jacob Thompson said. “The family that they’ve created inside this program and the team atmosphere is something that’s hard to take away.”
Rouse was forced to call the first timeout, trailing Prosper 15-10 in the opening set. A pair of kills by McCall helped shrink the lead to three points, but the Eagles won five in a row to take the lead for good.
The Raiders started to find their footing in the second set and opened up a four-point lead after a kill by Cole. The Eagles again fought back to tie it, but three kills by McCall and an ace from Bell helped Rouse hold on.
That momentum carried over to the third set when Rouse stretched its lead to as much as 10 points over Prosper. A kill by Mackenzie Huntley and an ace from Sheehan helped the Raiders stave off a late run by the Eagles.
Prosper’s Ciera Hecht took a hard fall in the third set and was helped to the bench in tears and was initially diagnosed with a broken thumb. She returned in the fourth set to help the Eagles win the final two sets, was credited with the championship-winning point and was named tournament MVP.
“Anytime we get seeded high, I get nervous because the weight of the world is on us,” Prosper head coach Erin Kauffman said. “I think maybe Rouse felt a little of that today. We had nothing to lose.”
The senior class had been building to this stage since they arrived at Rouse in 2014. That year, the Raiders finished third in the district and lost in the first round of the playoffs and repeated that feat in 2015.
Rouse advanced to the regional final last year for the first time in school history after sharing the district title before this season filled with all sorts of records and streaks.
Regardless of the end result, the Raiders ended things the only way they know how.
“Our teammates and the bonds we’ve made — not every high school gets this,” Bell said. “Yes, right now, this loss hurts and it’s going to sting for a little bit. But in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it will cloud anything.”