The Woodlands fall in the John Turner Classic Championship against Cornerstone

WEBSTER – The Woodlands proudly wears t-shirts with this season’s slogan:

For a long time, the Highlanders volleyball program has left a legacy on the court. After a 22-25, 25-22, 25-21 loss to Cornerstone Christian Academy in Pearland’s John Turner Classic on Saturday at the Absolute Volleyball Academy in the Championship match, The Woodlands have again left their mark, although than defeated by a team that won’t. get in his way in the playoffs.

“The Woodlands are a state champion team,” Cornerstone coach Mike Carter said. “They play with that mentality. The confidence they had is what I talked to (our team). It was a big tournament championship, so we had to be in it to feel it. They reacted well. »

Which the Warriors did, overcoming a 25-23, 25-23 loss to the Highlanders to wrap up the pool game on Friday.

“We had experienced that yesterday when we played them,” Woodlands coach Terri Wade said. “So we knew it was going to be a fight. I think we could have taken advantage of some of the opportunities we had a bit more, but, you know, it’s tough when you have such a dominant attack working against you there.

Of course, Cornerstone, an independent private school with an enrollment of about 350 in San Antonio, had a poison-picking offensive attack. Whether it’s Grace Carroll, Megan Fitch or Nayeli Gonzalez, the Warriors (9-1) have a balanced offense that attacks you in waves. The Woodlands (10-1) discovered that this weekend.

After beating Cornerstone a day earlier in a tight game, the Highlanders found rhythm late in the first set when Claire DeWine sent a laser to the ground, and a successive Warriors error put The Woodlands at 21-18. Marjorie Johnson’s block and another two-serve trick block later tied it at 21. DeWine hammered an overpass to put the Highlanders ahead, 22-21. Makenzie Weddel and Johnson finished the first set with outs to give The Woodlands a 1-0 lead.

But Cornerstone stole the momentum early in the second set, taking a 10-7 lead on a Carroll block. Two serves later, the Warriors led by five. DeWine’s solo block stopped Cornerstone’s run for a serve, but the Warriors used a kill from Gonzalez and a cross torpedo from Carroll to cut the lead back to five. DeWine’s kill and a combined block from Johnson and Bella Haden, coupled with a pair of Cornerstone errors tied it at 18. Weddel’s kill and Haden’s block out of a timeout gave the Highlanders a 20-18 lead before Fitch tied it at 20 down a ball. Carroll’s kill and a Highlanders error pushed Cornerstone ahead, 23-21. Johnson’s outburst kept The Woodlands alive, but Carroll pushed a ball down the back line and his side secured the decisive point to tie the game at 1-1.

“Honestly, I think both teams played really well,” DeWine said after hitting 13 kills, dished out 18 assists and had nine digs and two blocks while hitting .370. “I’m not crazy about this loss. They got carried away. I think they understood what we were doing, so it took us a second to change it, but I think we finally did.

The problem was that Cornerstone just didn’t want to go away.

Gonzalez gave Cornerstone a three-point lead in the second set. The Warriors took it to four, but the death of Ella Lewis helped The Woodlands close the gap to two. But Cornerstone won the next two points to take a 19-15 lead. Taylor Anderson’s block of tricks moved the Warriors up 22-17. After a timeout, Johnson created a solo block and a Cornerstone error cut the deficit to 23-20. But Gonzalez sent a ball over the line to clinch it.

It was a decisive win for Cornerstone, who made no secret of its magnitude.

“A ton,” Carter said. “We know we are going against schools that are 10 times bigger. For us it was very special.

The Woodlands will continue this journey throughout the tournament season, testing themselves against the best to prepare for the playoffs.

“We picked tough tournaments that are going to have competition because we need that motivation at the start of the season to prepare for the district and to see the best teams in the state,” Wade said. “I think we’re proud of that, coming against the top teams. We’ve definitely accomplished that, and I think we’ve held up pretty well against the top teams in the state.

Cornerstone is one of them, regardless of level. Carter won his 1,000th career game earlier in the day, and the Turner Classic title was his second with as many schools in five years. He guided San Antonio Reagan to the title in 2017 before joining Cornerstone.

“Their offense is incredible,” Wade said. “Carroll is pretty much unstoppable. Anyone’s game plan against them is to try to get her away from 16. In our only trade we were able to shut her down which is a very difficult task because she can find a spot on the court anywhere. I think we did a good job, but we gave them too many chances to get passes for her.

The Woodlands’ powerful serve, which drew praise from Barbers Hill coach Casey Veen after the Highlanders’ semi-final win over the Eagles, was not such a big factor against the Warriors.

“We haven’t really seen anyone that aggressive,” Veen said. “We have been the aggressive service team. This same strategy, when it is done to us, it is not amusing. They did a great job of serving. It’s low, flat and fast. Our smugglers had trouble reading it, and adjusting correctly behind it. Everyone has their goal, and you can tell theirs was definitely to serve hard.

The Highlanders had four aces in the league game, and none late when they needed it.

“They started passing and even looked around and said, ‘How do they pass that ball?’ because we were just nailing it,” Wade said. “I think at the end of the day it’s kind of trying to reduce your unforced errors, so we weren’t going there because we weren’t couldn’t afford to miss a serve.”

Johnson had 14 kills and five blocks. Molly Tuozzo had 23 recoveries. Lewis had five kills and 15 digs. Haden had four blocks. Olivia Chojnacki had 18 assists. The Highlanders hit .171, committing 18 errors against 40 kills. They had nine blocks.

Barbers Hill, a small 5A school, which no one expected to be one game away from playing for a title, may have met its game at The Woodlands, which handed three quality teams their first loss of the season this week-end. The Eagles fell to 7-1 after the semi-final loss.

“The Woodlands is clean and disciplined, and that’s what we try to be,” Veen said. “We’re still trying to figure things out, but The Woodlands is a great program, known to be a great program. Maybe the jersey got to us, and we got a little shy. I think we were a bit surprised by their cleanliness.

“No one really thought we would be in the championship bracket, let alone the top four. When we beat Dripping Springs this morning I was almost in tears because I was so proud of how hard the girls were doing. They are such a cohesive team and they literally play for each other. The girls are playing out of their element, and that will now become our expectation for the rest of the way.

For the Woodlands, that wait won’t end until November.

“I think we’re going to go really far in the playoffs,” DeWine said. “Maybe even the state.”

Jim McCurdy is a freelance sports journalist.

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