Curtis Culwell Center, GARLAND – The Alamo Heights volleyball team had been on a magic carpet ride throughout the playoffs, sweeping five straight opponents to punch the program’s first tickets to the UIL State Tournament.
That ride came to an end Friday afternoon.
Despite holding early leads in each set, the Mules were swept by Canyon Randall in the Class 5A semifinals 25-22, 25-23, 25-16. Heights finished the 2019 season with a 35-10 overall record.
“We fought really hard, and that is the hard part because we’ve been working super hard for this," said senior middle blocker Faith Holzhausen. "Yes, it’s going to sting, and -- being seniors -- it’s going to sting even more. But they were a good team and so were we. They did their job and played their game. At the end of the day, it came down to who was getting balls up and who was going to fight for it.”
The final set score doesn’t indicate how tightly the match was played.
Alamo Heights jumped out to commanding leads of 4-0 and 8-3, and held a comfortable 5-point edge for the majority of the first set. But a late 15-7 Canyon Randall run turned the tables, and the Mules found themselves trailing 1-0. The second set followed a similar pattern, with the Mules leading early, but this time it was a 12-4 Raiders run that flipped the script. Heights back to take a late 21-20 lead, but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell behind 2-0. The Mules once again kept pace in the third, trailing 16-14, but only mustered two points down the stretch in what was eventually the decisive set.
Sophomore Kylie Wickley led the team with 12 kills.
“We showed up ready to work," said head coach Alex Bothe. "That was our entire goal. We wanted to work hard and do our job. These girls fought hard and Canyon Randall fought hard too. We at no point just gave up. We never just let balls hit the floor. We never quit. We pushed really hard and gave it our all.”
Alamo Heights bids farewell to two seniors -- Holzhausen and outside hitter Avery Rosenblum -- who have taken the program to a new level. Their legacy will last forever as the class that broke the regional tournament ceiling and brought belief to the Mules team.
“We went in with that mentality, that we can do it," Holzhausen said. "We realized that we are good. That got us here today.”
“When we made the playoffs, there was some type of energy that fueled us, and we ran with it," Rosenblum said. “We were so proud to see such a young team step up to the challenge and bring it on. Every day, everybody was ready to work. We all wanted it from day one, and it was so awesome to see everybody want it together and fight for it. I’m really lucky and proud to be part of a team that was able to do this.”
With the majority of the roster returning -- including junior setter and team captain Ruby O’Brien -- and a newfound belief established in the foundation of the team, the seniors have plenty of reason to believe the future is bright.
“We’ll be back next year," Holzhausen said.