There were some nights throughout the season that were amazing for Melissa Southall and Vandegrift and there were others where she didn’t recognize the team on the court.
The Lady Vipers ended the season on a 10-game winning streak and clinched the District 13-6A title with a 3-0 sweep of Hendrickson on the final night of the regular season at home on Tuesday.
“I think I always thought we had the caliber, it was more so about working hard and having the girls execute,” Southall said. “I’m so proud of them for being undefeated for the entire second round. We knew it would probably come down to the last night. There’s no sharing this year.”
Vandegrift finished last season tied with Westlake at the top of the district standings and made it to the second round of the playoffs.
Brynne Wright and Annie Stadthaus led the Lady Vipers with 11 kills apiece Tuesday night while Wright also led the squad with three aces and Stadthaus finished with a team-high two blocks. Egadi Santos had 19 digs and Delaney Dilfer had 33 assists.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought this would be the outcome of our season, but every single girl believed in our team,” Dilfer said. “Every single practice we worked for this goal. Wanting this outcome and getting it feels awesome.”
The beginning of the streak to end the season started with a sweep of a playoff-bound Westwood team and continued with another sweep against Vista Ridge, which spent most of the first half of district play at the top of the standings.
But the most memorable win for the Lady Vipers came against Cedar Ridge last Tuesday night when they rallied from a 2-0 hole to come away with a five-set win.
“When we got in that huddle, we said we were going to play for each other and play our game and that’s how we beat them in five,” Dilfer said.
Vandegrift honored four senior players on Tuesday night — Maddie Beck, Adriana Santiago, Addie Yeats and Ari Orrick. But the top five players in kills entering Tuesday were juniors or sophomores and the top two players in digs were sophomores.
“For the youth of our team, a lot of people thought that would be a problem,” Dilfer said. “Coming in, the coaches said we’re not going to blame anything on being young and I think the sophomores took that to heart and we all played like were seniors.”
Southall said once the second round started the girls knew what to expect and the confidence level reached the highest point of the season, it just took time to get the mental side of the game in the right spot.
She added having leaders such as Dilfer helped speed up the learning curve.
“These girls have overcome certain challenges, I feel like they’ve grown up so much and it’s only the end of the district,” Southall said. “I’m so proud of them and I’m looking forward to making a good playoff run.”
Next up: the playoffs. The bi-district round takes place next Monday and Tuesday night. The Lady Vipers line up against the fourth-place finisher of District 14-6A, most likely Bryan or Langham Creek.
“When we came into the season, we didn’t have any expectations other than we were going to give 100 percent effort, work our hardest and play for each other,” Dilfer said. “We’re going to do the same thing going into playoffs. It’s gotten us this far.”