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Varsity Volleyball Season Comes to a Close With Loss to Seven Lakes in Playoffs

By Grant Dunwoody, 11/07/23, 9:45PM CST


Varsity started playoffs this week as District 17’s top seed with a matchup at Don Coleman against Heights High School.

vs. Heights

The Spartans started with a bang, opening up a huge lead and never looking back. A Sarah Hickman kill ended the set at 25-3. A booming Audrey Hilberth block made it 7-3 early in the second set. Stratford stretched the lead to 17-5 on the strength of several kills by Addy Lanning, and the Spartans closed out the set 25-11 on the strength of a service run by Emma Dunwoody. The third set once again started with a bang. Tess Stephenson scored two blocks to make it 9-4. Audrey Cook forced a timeout at 16-7. Sophie Corbeil’s kill brought the match to an end at 25-11.

vs. Seven Lakes

Stratford next had an Area round matchup against Seven Lakes, a traditional volleyball power that Stratford had defeated in two closely contested sets early in the season.

Chloe Popkin and Sophie Corbeil made it 2-0 early, but Lakes would come back to open up a small lead at 4-8. A run of points by Sarah HickmanAshley JonesPopkin, and Emma Dunwoody brought the score to 8-9 before Lakes answered. A second run of points by Hailey TackerCorbeil, and Hickman (with a great save by Audrey Cook) brought the score back to 12-14, but Varsity could never climb all the way back, and Lakes closed out the first set 17-25.

A trio of a Sophie Corbeil kill and a Sarah Hickman-Hailey Tacker combo block gave Stratford a small 8-4 lead, before a series of Stratford errors leveled the score again. Varsity eeked out a small lead again, with a Sophie Corbeil-Hailey Tacker combo block,  making it 15-12, but once again Lakes would answer, taking a small lead they would not relinquish. Lakes would go on to take the second set 20-25.

Down two sets and facing elimination, Varsity would come out of the third set blazing.

Multiple scores by Hailey Tacker and Sophie Corbeil, and a Sarah Hickman-Emma Dunwoody combo block made it 6-2. Scores by Dunwoody and Gwen Koss made it 10-3, and additional DunwoodyKoss, and Hickman scores made it 16-7. HickmanTacker, and Corbeil piled on more scores,  and Tacker finished things off at 25-10 with a pair of acrobatic, Matrix-like put-backs to score the final point and bring Stratford back into the match.

After Hailey Tacker and Sarah Hickman opened up with scores to take a brief 2-0 lead, Lakes came back to take a sizable 6-11 lead. Consecutive scores by Gwen Koss and Audrey Cook brought Stratford back into it, and a breathtaking Tacker save helped bring Varsity to 13-14, and a booming block by Tacker and Hickman tied it at 14. A statement block by Emma Dunwoody had Stratford in the lead 16-15. A series of scores by HickmanDunwoodySophie Corbeiland Chloe Popkin helped Varsity prevail in the 4th set 25-20.

It all came down to a 5th set tie-breaker. Unlike normal sets that are played to 25 points, 5th sets are only played to 15. Varsity would like to get out to a fast start, as there would be little margin for error.

After an early Gwen Koss score, Lakes jumped out to a lead and Stratford was forced to call a timeout down 2-6 in the final set. A pair of Emma Dunwoody kills kept Stratford in it, and a Gwen Koss kill off a beautiful Chloe Popkin cross-court set got it to 5-8. But Stratford could never quite inch back into the set and eventually ran out of room. Lakes closed out the set and match 9-15 to bring Stratford’s season to an end.

As stunning as the end was, the season brought milestones that are impossible to ignore. Varsity finished with a 38-8 record, undefeated in District play for the second consecutive season. Varsity’s win total was the largest in the history of the program. A heck of a run by any measure.

This week's stats include:

Rachel Ashby – 9 digs

Jaelyn Chen – 39 assists, 2 digs

Audrey Cook – 4 aces, 51 assists, 25 digs

Sophie Corbeil – 27 kills, 12 digs, 3 blocks

Emma Dunwoody – 14 kills, 4 blocks

Sarah Hickman – 14 kills, 5 blocks

Ashley Jones – 6 kills

Gwen Koss – 12 kills, 7 digs

Chloe Popkin – 6 aces, 13 kills, 21 digs

Izzy Rodriguez – 5 aces, 33 digs, 8 assists

Kiki Sykes – 7 assists

Hailey Tacker – 5 kills, 3 blocks 2 digs