Bushland‘s Taryn Schultz (5) and her teammates celebrate during a four-set win against Gunter in a Class 3A state semifinal on Tuesday night in Vernon. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]
Bushland’s year-long quest to compete for a state championship came to fruition in an overpowering performance against Gunter during a Class 3A state semifinal Tuesday in Vernon.
The Lady Falcons were superior in every facet of the match, getting past the Lady Tigers 25-16, 25-18, 23-25.
Bushland redeems itself from a loss in the state semi’s to Vanderbilt Industrial a year ago, and will now compete for the programs fifth state title (2007, 2008, 2013, 2016) since the doors opened to the school in 2005.
“We gave ourselves a chance to get back,” Bushland head coach Jason Culpepper said. “There is some great tradition at Bushland, and we just wanted to come out and keep doing what we do. Winning this game has been in the back of our mind so it was super special for us”
Senior setter Taryn Schulz echoed Culpepper’s comment.
“We played amazing as a team,” Schultz said. “We had to reach far down and we did it. I have no words I’m just thankful. Us seniors get one more game, our last one ever, and we’re going to give it everything we have.”
Bushland (30-2) will now head to the Culwell Center in Garland to take on Goliad (29-3) in the Class 3A state championship at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Lady Falcons showed no signs of nerves in the four-set win against Gunter (29-4) jumping out to a 2-set to nothing lead. In the first set Bushland frustrated the with continuous blocks at the net. The Lady Falcons offense was then pulled away behind their dominant hitters Kinley Rudder and Hallie Conklin. The same formula worked in the second-set. Stellar defense, great passing, constant digs, and a fast-paced offensive flow gave Bushland a commanding to 2-0 lead.
Gunter fought back to win the third set, however, down the stretch of the fourth, Rudder, Conklin, along with seniors Schultz and Chandler Petty’s veteran leadership took over. Bushland finally sealed its win with a Rudder kill down the left side closing out the match.
“We went really fast in the first two sets,” Culpepper said. “That’s the speed we play at, and that was really good for us. They slowed it down and played their game. They are a good team. We knew they would be. We knew they would comeback and fight. But we dug down set up our hitters with good passes.”
Bushland’s Kinley Rudder goes for a kill against Gunter on Tuesday night. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]
Gunter didn’t have an answer for Bushland’s hard-hitting senior, Rudder. When Culpepper needed points he went to his workhorse as Rudder time and time again punished the Lady Tigers with her powerful left-hand. Rudder was unstoppable knocking down a season-high 29 kills, adding three blocks and served up four aces.
“This is amazing,” Rudder said. “We’ve been wanting to get back and win this game since last year. We made sure we were fearless, and we all did our job. I just wanted to make sure if this was my last game I had no regrets. Now I get one more chance to do it it again.
Culpepper echoed Rudder by praising her performance.
“Kinley came to play,” Culpepper said. “The problem for my team is she does that to us in practice. This right now is where hard work pays off. I’m happy for her and this team.”
Conklin added 18 digs and three blocks. Schultz and Logan Culpepper combined for 52 assists in the win.
Bushland def. Gunter 25-16, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22
Bushland— Kills: Kinley Rudder 29, Hallie Conklin 18; Blocks: Rudder 3, Conklin 3; Digs: Jaycee Adams 30, Logan Culpepper 10; Assists: Taryn Schultz 27, Culpepper 25; Aces: Rudder 4, Adams 2
Records: Bushland 30-2; Gunter 29-4.