Randall libero Peyton Irwin, right, hugs coach Haleigh Burns during the Lady Raiders Region I-5 Tournament match against Grapevine last Friday. [Mackenzie Teal/ Press Pass Sports]
2019 record: 42-3.
District 3-5A: 16-0 (District champions)
State appearances: 6
State championships: 1 (2009)
When watching the Randall Lady Raiders it’s easy to notice the playmakers like Brianna Ford, Zoe Parker or Stevie Reynecke.
While those players are a key cog to why Randall (42-3) is playing in its second straight University Scholastic League Texas High School Volleyball Championships in Garland, it’s easy to miss the players grinding in the trenches.
Libero Peyton Irwin is one of those players that does the Lady Raiders dirty work. She maybe 5-foot-6, but Irwin has stood tall as one of the unsung heroes for first-year coach Haleigh Burns.
“It’s hard to think about the players that start the points or make the defensive plays,” Burns said. “ But that’s what Peyton does. Defense wins games, and what Peyton does, is what gives Brianna, Zoe, Stevie and Kiar Parker those opportunities. She does a phenomenal job.”
Irwin played in and out of the rotation as a junior last season under former coach Jason Culpepper.
When Burns took over in the summer, she told Irwin that the libero job was hers, and she needed her to take the role and run with it.
Irwin has done just that. Playing in all 45 games, the senior has become one of Randall’s top defensive players totaling 553 digs this season.
“At beginning of the year, I think my main role was just being a senior,” Irwin said. “As the season went on, I’ve come on as a leader by example. I just want to go out and do my best to fill my role every game.”
Irwin serves against Grapevine last Friday. [Mackenzie Teal/ Press Pass Sports]
Irwin is also a huge reason why Randall is at the state tournament, and not sitting at home.
During the Region I-5A semifinal last Friday against Grapevine, the Lady Raiders season was on the line. Grapevine led 2-0, and were on the game-winning point, up 24-19 going for the sweep in game three.
Irwin stepped up to serve with the Randall’s season in the balance, making seven straight pressure packed serves that turned into seven monumental points, propelling the Lady Raiders to take the set, 26-24, which sparked Randall to a five-set victory.
“I’ve always struggled serving,” Irwin said. “I just told myself to get it over the net. Coach Burns was giving me zones to hit in and I’m just hoping it gets over the net.”
“I just had the confidence in myself, and I knew if I could serve the defense could take care of itself.”
Irwin’s confidence has grown tremensously throughout the season. Half the credit goes to her, while the other half goes to Burns. The two share a very unique player/ coach relationship on the court that not many see.
“There’s times we just look at each other during the game, and I know she’s got it,” Burns said. “She’ll shake her head and she just understands. You’ll see us talk before the game, and we always have the same conversation. I love to tell her that I believe in her and she’s great. She’s meant to be in that jersey and on the floor.”
Randall plays San Antonio Alamo Heights (35-9) in a Class 5A state semifinal at 11 a.m. Friday. The winner faces the Lucas Lovejoy-Friendswood winner in the state championship at 3 p.m. Saturday.