By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 9, 2015) — Stephenville is in a familiar spot.
On the cusp of a regional tournament berth for the fourth straight season, the Honeybees came just short in their last two bids. On Tuesday, they challenge Vernon – at 6:30 p.m. at Graham – for the right to move on to the 2015 Region I-4A Tournament.
“They’re really wanting to get back there,” said Stephenville head coach Fran Metzger of her team. “It’s been the focus of this team, and the senior leaders we have are making a huge difference in trying to get us there.”
‘There’ is The Coliseum in Snyder, where the Honeybees last competed in regionals in 2012. They defeated Lubbock Cooper in the semifinals before falling to Abilene Wylie in a four-set regional championship.
Stephenville is fresh off an area championship in straight sets over No. 10 Godley, while Vernon used four sets to get past Springtown in its area playoff. Vernon also defeated Brownwood, a team quite familiar to Stephenville, in straight sets in bi-district.
The Honeybees beat Brownwood in straight sets at home and in four without senior outside hitter Kaleigh Conger on the road as part of their 8-0 district championship run in 6-4A.
To say both teams are on fire entering the regional quarterfinal is a little like saying both hope to win Tuesday.
Since a 3-1 loss to Graham back on September 22, Vernon has won 12 straight including six sweeps. They were pressed to five sets only once during that stretch in a road match at Burkburnett on October 6. During the win streak, they are 36-7 in sets played.
Not to be outdone, the Honeybees swept Graham, winning in three on the road and in four at home, during their current run of 10 wins in 11 matches. The only loss during that stretch came to 3A powerhouse Glen Rose, an area champion with more than 42 wins, in a playoff prep match.
Stephenville has not gone to five sets in a single match during its hot streak, which has included six sweeps and wins in 31 of 38 sets.
Metzger, who topped 600 career wins early this season, says Vernon presents two formidable outside hitters.
“The Brownwood coaches said their outsides are good; they’re the ones we have to stop or at least slow down,” said Metzger. “But that’s not anything new. You always have to get a block up on their hitters. We also have to dig the ball well, because you can’t expect to get a hand on every shot.”
TheFlashToday.com photos by BRAD KEITH