SCHERTZ – The Clemens gym was bustling on Tuesday afternoon. Students walked into the main hallway and out to the buses while the boys and girls basketball teams prepared for their games.
But for the first time in recent memory, the center of attention in late November was still the volleyball court. Onlookers and Passersby all watched practice in awe, whispering the same phrase.
“That’s the volleyball team. They’re going to State.”
That’s the new reality for a Buffaloes team that has turned this 2019 playoff run into a dream.
After surviving a pair of five-set matches in the second and third rounds against Reagan and Lake Travis respectively, Clemens then swept past McAllen and Clark on back-to-back days to clinch the program’s first Regional Championship and earn their first berth in the UIL State Tournament. For some of the players, that reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
“I’m still in shock," said senior outside hitter Ashley Breu. "I don’t think it’s truly processed in my mind that we’re actually going to State. Everyone’s been coming up to us and saying ‘Congratulations,’ and I’m still saying ‘Wait, we actually did that?’ That’s pretty much how it’s been. I feel like I haven’t been playing volleyball at all. The personalities and the teammates have made this season feel like it’s been a week. We’ve been together since July 29, but it feels like it started yesterday.”
“I love coming to school and hearing about all of the support that we have," said senior setter Cassidy Steadman. “It’s something very new for us, and it’s very new for people to hear about us. It’s so hard to put into words because it’s so unbelievably exciting. It’s an amazing accomplishment that we’ve put on our backs and taken everywhere we go. We don’t want to let it end.”
Fortunately, this remarkable ride isn’t over yet. The Buffaloes are guaranteed one more week of practice together, and they’re using it to prepare for their state semifinal against Northwest Nelson on Friday. The 48-2 Bobcats have only dropped one set through their five playoff matchups. Clemens knows Nelson’s potent blend of youth, experience and athleticism will provide a significant challenge.
“We’re definitely going to have to be strong mentally to push ourselves even further than we’ve been pushed in our last matches," Steadman explained. “They’re a great team, and it’s going to be an exciting game. We just have to remind ourselves that it’s all a game. It’s all volleyball. We all know how to play volleyball. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, it’s the sport that we love.”
“If we go in believing that they’re like any other team, we should be okay," Breu said. “It’s the same square-footage on the court. It’s the same number of people on each team. As long as we’re together, we should be fine.”
The Buffaloes’ goal for the 2019 season was to leave a lasting legacy. With a 44-win season and a Regional Championship under their belts, it’s clear the team has already accomplished that. They are one of the final four teams in Texas, and are now just two wins away from winning it all.
“We’re not stressed anymore," Breu said. "In the previous rounds when we played Reagan and Lake Travis no one wanted to lose, and of course we don’t want to lose now, but I think it’s just a great accomplishment to make it this far. The stress is off of our shoulders, and we’re just playing for fun.”
“It’s our last ride," Steadman said. "It’s something that we’re always going to remember forever. We’re the first volleyball team from Samuel Clemens that’s going to State, and that’s just unforgettable.”
Clemens will take on Northwest Nelson at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland this Friday at 5 p.m.