No 7. Graham’s combination of finesse and power kept a banged-up No. 16 Stephenville off balance, and the Honeybees had problems transitioning into their offense in a five-set Class 4-A regional quarterfinal loss in Mineral Wells Tuesday.
Stephenville (26-6) had counted the Lady Blues (27-2) among their many wins this season when the Honeybees swept Graham 25-13, 25-19, 25-22 earlier in the year, but the Class 4-A playoffs were a different story as the match went the distance 25-22, 17-25, 24-26, 27-25, 15-11.
The Honeybees were 24-2 when winning the first set of a match. Still, even after topping the Lady Blues to start things off 25-22, there was an uncomfortable feeling among the Stephenville faithful because this was a different Graham from earlier in the year.
Part of the problem was Stephenville entering the playoffs at 100-percent strength only to have players like Landri Withers and Jaydi Griffin hobbled by injuries in the Honeybees’ first two playoff matches. Coach Shay Douglas doesn’t make excuses, but the Bees were out of sync, and rotation changes didn’t get the matchups that worked.
The Lady Blue’s proved the “uncomfortable feeling” was on point as Graham came out and dominated the second set, and Stephenville’s struggles to gain offensive transition began to show up.
After seizing the third set’s momentum with an 8-3 lead, the Honeybees couldn’t find a defensive solution for the Lady Blues’ attack team of Leah Holland and Hannah Isom. Rather than overpowering the Bees at the net, Graham found ways to get the ball onto the floor by putting it where the Bees were not.
The Honeybees faced a do-or-die situation after dropping the third set 26-24 and came back with a valiant 27-25 rally.
Emotionally drained with three of their sets being decided by three or fewer points, the Honeybees faded in the final set 15-11.
While Stephenville may had offensive problems, the Honeybees still put up respectable statistics, with Landri Withers’ 14 kills leading all scorers. Emma Giddings (12) and Alee McClendon (10) both got into double-scoring while Jaylee Matthews had six, and Jaydi Griffin had three.
Kennedy Coffee’s setting accounted for most of the Bees’ scoring opportunities. The backside play of Cali Carter and Reese Wyers forced Graham to the middle and line-edge attacks to score.
Matthews, Giddings Wyers recorded two aces each for the Bees.
Stephenville will lose the services of seniors McClendon, Griffin, Carter, Emma Elliott, and Bailey Kammerer due to graduation.