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Conroe Grand Oaks caps outstanding season by claiming Texas high school volleyball championship

Nationally ranked Grizzlies finish with 50 wins as they sweep Katy Cinco Ranch

GARLAND, TEXAS - Even before the third set started in Saturday's Class 6A state volleyball title match, Conroe Grand Oaks' boisterous student section anticipated the inevitable.

They started chanting, "Best In Texas. Best In Texas."

On this day, and for this season, the Grizzlies left no doubt. They put the finishing touches on a superb 50-win season by recording a three-set sweep against Katy Cinco Ranch, winning 25-22, 25-23, 25-13, at the Curtis Culwell Center.

“Last year, we were happy with 38 (wins), so 50 is pretty incredible," Grand Oaks coach Morgan Rogers said. "We tried not to think about where that number was, and it was cool to know that we could do that. … The end goal was to be here and to win this, and with this team that we had, we knew this was the year to do it, and we couldn’t be more happy.”

Making their first-ever trip to the state championship match, Grand Oaks continued to do the things that got the Grizzlies to this juncture. They delivered numerous kills, made huge plays around the court and also found ways to win in clutch situations.

That added up to an overall 50-1 record and the program's first state title.

“That was exactly our mindset; we came in wanting that 50-1 record, and we came in wanting it and we knew the other team was going to want it, too," said sophomore outside hitter Halle Thompson, who was named the MVP afterward. "But we knew that if we came together and we trusted each other to pass, set and kill, then we were going to get the job done.

“At the beginning of the season, we were saying, ‘Yeah, we want to win state,’ but it’s crazy to think we’re actually here, I have a gold medal around my neck and to actually win state, it’s crazy I think. … It’s surreal.”

Grand Oaks trailed for much of the first set, including 20-17 after the Cougars' Abby Borchardt served back-to-back aces. But the Grizzlies reeled off seven of the next eight points, with junior outside hitter Samara Coleman recording a pair of kills, including one to give Grand Oaks a 24-21 advantage.

Moments later, the Grizzlies' Jaela Auguste came up with a kill on set point.

It was a similar situation in the second set, as the Grizzlies were able to claw back late.

They fell behind 20-18 before reeling off four unanswered points. Cinco Ranch responded with three straight points of its own to go in front, 23-22.

But Coleman recorded her 10th kill of the match to start a set-ending 3-0 spurt, finished off with Caelyn Emmerling's kill.

It was all Grand Oaks from there, with their student section already coming up with various chants.

The Grizzlies scored the first seven points. Coleman started things off with a kill and made it 7-0 with her second ace in the set.

Grand Oaks later extended the lead to 12-2 as well as 16-8 and 21-11. Up 21-12, Emmerling got a kill and then Thompson registered consecutive kills to get the Grizzlies one point away.

They got that match point on a Cinco Ranch service error, finishing off the dominant 50-win campaign.

Thompson and Coleman combined for 28 of the Grizzlies' 45 kills. Thompson had 15 of those kills along with three blocks in being named the MVP, while Coleman - who has committed to Pittsburgh - had 13 kills and six of the team's eight aces.

Emmerling had eight kills and five blocks as well. Also for Grand Oaks, Audrey Terry and Cali Reece each had 12 digs, and Terry - a senior setter - was the assists leader with 18.

“When we were up 2-0, it was like, this is it, this is the moment, let’s go out with a bang right here," Terry said.

“Our chemistry is amazing. We get along with each other, on the court, outside the court, everyone’s involved 24/7 with each other. It’s like a second family to me and we’re all sisters, and the support is unbelievable.”

And as a result, Grand Oaks finally validated that outstanding season with championship gold.

“We knew from the beginning that we could do this, and we were able to push through everything and become state champs," Terry said.

For Cinco Ranch (38-6), also making its first appearance in the state championship, Gabi Martinez was the only player with double-digit kills, recording 11. Kassie O'Brien finished with 20 assists, and Maggie Finnegan had 10 digs.

-- Buck Ringgold | | @sblivetx