O C A L S P O R T S N E W S
Tue, October 31, 2000
Lady Bulldogs try to block Burleson in 4A volleyball playoffs
Andy Newberry, Times Record News
Burkburnett is a district champion, which meant a first-round bye. But it didn't guarantee an easy area-round playoff as the Lady Bulldogs battle a 28-win Burleson squad at 7 o'clock tonight in a Class 4A volleyball playoff at Denton Ryan High School.
Burkburnett coach Linda Richards said the match will come down to control of the net.
"They (Lady Elks) are a tall team and they block very well," Richards said. "We're going to hit a little different. We have to get some to the corner and to the back line. They have two tall middle blockers. And they are versatile hitters."
The Lady Bulldogs (19-14) have a top-notch hitter in senior Julia Graham, but will need an ultimate team effort to take down Burleson. She is joined in the starting lineup by Brittany Willson, Tonya Pickett, Shera Taylor and Sarah Mills. Taylor, a sophomore, is the only underclassman in the lineup.
Key reserves expected to contribute are sophomore Diana Walck, sophomore Amy Taylor, Shera's twin sister; and senior Jennifer Barker, who plays excellent defense on the back row.
"To be able to compete, everybody is going to have to play," Richards said. "To make it a game, we're going to have to block. They don't do a lot of fancy things or run a lot of plays, they just make very few mistakes.
"I feel that if we can get around the blockers we have a good chance. If they have a weak point, it's in the back."
Richards said the team took advantage of the break with some very good practices. And they visited the "Old Bulldog Gym" to change the pace.
"These girls love that gym and I think it kind of gave us a lift to go to a different gym and practice," Richards said. "We've had very positive practices."
The Lady Bulldogs had a goal of returning to the playoffs after a rare miss in 1999, but they surpassed expectations by winning District 5-4A with a 9-1 record. Richards credits teamwork for the success. "This group jelled at the right time," she added.
Burleson wasn't tested in its bi-district match, a 15-4, 15-6 romp over O.D. Wyatt. Jenny Thomasson led the Lady Elks with 12 kills and Brenda Best added 11. Ashley Howard set up the attack with 11 assists.
Burkburnett will need to be strong mentally in the early going. The Lady Elks had leads of 8-0 and 12-1 in their last match and rolled to victory.
"We have to block, that's the main thing," Richards said. "We are going to have to play good defense and we'll have to have good transition from offense and defense. If we can control the net and make them place the ball, that will help us."
Assistant sports editor Andy Newberry may be reached after 4 p.m. weekdays by calling (940) 720-3470 or (800) 627-1646, extension 571, 447 or 470; or by e-mail at Anewberry@wf.scripps.com.