Curtis Culwell Center, GARLAND – By stepping on the court at the Curtis Culwell Center, the Clemens volleyball team had already made history.
“We’re the first Clemens team to make it this far,” said senior right side hitter Ashley Breu. “The last time a team had made it past the third round was 1976.”
The Buffaloes’ historic run had taken them all the way to the Class 6A State semifinals, and the Clemens faithful flooded Garland in hopes of watching their team take home the title.
On Friday afternoon, that run came to an end.
Clemens came up short in back-to-back, tightly-contested sets and couldn’t rally in the third, falling to Northwest Byron Nelson in the semis 32-30, 25-22, 25-16. The Buffaloes finished the season with a 44-5 overall record.
“I’m so proud of the whole group, as a team," Breu said. "No one knew we could go this far. I didn’t know we could go this far, but we did. We proved ourselves to everyone else, so I’m just proud of how far we’ve come.”
The Buffaloes looked every bit as tough as the third-ranked Bobcats throughout the first two sets.
Clemens held a consistent two-point lead throughout the first set and actually held set point before Nelson ignited a back-and-forth fight to the finish. Ultimately, a couple errors proved to be the difference in a 32-30 set loss.
“During the first set, I really thought we were about to do it,” said head coach Robyn Wunderlich. “There came a point where I looked over and thought, ‘This is about to happen.’ I really thought we were going to take the first set. Their No. 10 is a dynamic, amazing player. We had a couple set points in that first set when she went to the back row, and we didn’t take advantage. It’s not like we weren’t trying, we were doing what we knew best to do, but they just got us right there at the end.”
The second set was just as fierce, as the Buffs rallied from a 15-10 deficit to take a 21-19 advantage. But a late 6-1 Bobcats run sealed a 2-0 match lead. The momentum from that surge carried over into the third. Nelson put the set out of reach early with a 10-2 run, and eventually eliminated the Buffaloes in three sets.
Breu, fellow senior Shelby O’Neal and junior Canada Buchanan each tallied eight kills to lead the Buffs. Paige Flickinger led the Bobcats with a game-high 29 kills. Charitie Luper tallied 19.
Four seniors -- Breu, O’Neal, libero Lillie Hill and setter Cassidy Steadman -- have led this Buffaloes program to new heights. At the podium after the match, they all took a moment to reflect on how far they’ve come over the past four years.
“We had some great players in years past, and we knew that we had a great group of girls in our class coming in,” Hill said. “We had to work hard to earn those spots on varsity. Our unity that we’ve had together has been great. We’ve been playing since we were little, too. We’ve grown up together and we know how to work with each other. The Class of 2020, especially for volleyball, was a great group of leaders.”
“We did it all,” O’Neal said. “They’re the No. 3 team in the nation, and they played like it. They balled out. Playing them was pretty awesome, and finishing 44-5 was crazy. I think our win-record coming into this season was 40 or 41, so to come out and beat that, play in the state tournament and play a team like Byron Nelson is insane. It’s so great.”