Bushland celebrates with the Class 3A state trophy after sweeping Goliad in Garland on Saturday. It was the Lady Falcons fifth state championship in school history. [Kevin J, Keller/ For Press Pass Sports]Garland— Redemption complete.
The Bushland Lady Falcons stepped back on the floor of the Curtis Culwell center after feeling major disappointment of falling short of a state title a year ago.
But not this time around. The Lady Falcons came in as the heavy favorite and played like it blowing out Goliad, 25-21, 25-10, 25-10 to Claim the University Interscholastic League Class 3A state championship Saturday afternoon.
It’s the fifth state title in program history — 2007, 2008, 2013, 2016 and 2020 — in the Lady Falcons ninth visit to the state tournament.
“This team worked so hard all year,” Bushland head coach Jason Culpepper said. “We were so confident because of our senior leaders, we couldn’t ask for a better group of young ladies.”
The game was a straight beating. Goliad, the Region IV champion, that ended the year at 29-4, hung around in the first set before falling 25-21. However, the second and third set saw the Lady Falcons do what they’ve done to almost everyone in their way this season. Bushland jumped all over the Lady Tigers building a 19-5 lead in the second set and a 19-4 advantage in the third. Bushland owned the net, senior star Kinley Rudder and Hallie Conklin couldn’t be stopped on the outside and the defense was flawless.
Bushland standout outside hitter Kinley Rudder, middle, was named Class 3A game MVP on Saturday. [Photo by UIL athletics]
Rudder was named the game MVP for her unreal effort. Her devastating left-hand was a mismatch. Rudder hammered down the state-winner on her way to a game-high 19 kills. Senior Hallie Conklin wasn’t far behind with 13 kills. Senior Taryn Schultz made her final game a memory in more ways than one earning a double-double with 22 assists and 10 digs.
“Going onto the court we just felt confident,” Rudder said. “Last year we felt overwhelmed and rushed. This year I feel we rushed Goliad. We made them uncomfortable. We got them out of their game. It was awesome to come back here and win.”
Forget the distractions 2020 has caused, because for Bushland It will go down as one of the most dominating seasons in school history.
The Lady Falcons end the year 31-2 overall, and on a 20-game win streak. Bushland has only lost one set since a 3-1 win against Frenship on Sept. 17. They’ve also won 14 straight district titles dating back to 2006, while carrying a 67 game district win streak.
“We talk about Texas Panhandle tradition, and Bushland has that,” Culpepper said. “It’s been great to carry on that tradition and make it better and better.”
Culpepper, who is an incredible 668-162 between Randall and Bushland, wins his second state title, and his first since his Lady Raider team won it in 2009. It had been 11 years between state championships for the veteran, hard-nosed Culpepper, who was also making his ninth overall appearance at state. He had taken Randall seven times, and now back-to-back showings with Bushland.
“I don’t feel much of a difference in both titles I’ve won at both places,” said Culpepper, carrying a masterful 78-5 record at Bushland. “It’s just special to win it. It’s hard just to get here, and it win it all. Just overcoming all that we did just made it that much better.”
Bushland def. Goliad 25-21, 25-10, 25-10
Goliad— Kills: Karleigh Hill 7, Kyla Hill 5; Blocks: Karleigh Hill 3, Brook Jackson 2; Digs: Karli Buenger 12, 10; Assists: Henicke 17; Aces: Julia Morris 1.
Bushland— Kills: Kinley Rudder 19, Hallie Conklin 13; Blocks: Madyson Eberly 5, Conklin 2, Rudder 2; Digs: Jaycee Adams 24, Taryn Schultz 10; Assists: Schultz 22, Logan Culpepper 12; Aces: Schultz 3, Conklin 1.
Records: Goliad 29-4; Bushland 31-2.