Run it back: Bushland takes down Gunter for back-to-back state championships

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The Bushland Lady Falcons storm the court after winning the UIL Class 3A state title against Gunter on Saturday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. [Matthew Smith/ Press Pass Sports]

GARLAND— Mission accomplished.

The Bushland Lady Falcons defended their crown as UIL Class 3A state champions by beating Gunter in an intense four sets, 24-26, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23, in front an electric crowd of 1,518 fans at the Curtis Culwell Center on Saturday afternoon.

It’s the second time for the Lady Falcons to go back-to-back, doing it the first time in 2007-2008.

Bushland closes another outstanding season out at 35-5 overall, while improving its playoff win streak to 14 straight in the process.

“It’s amazing to go win it for a second straight year,” Bushland senior captain Jaycee Adams said. “We knew coming into the season there was going to be a lot of pressure. There was a lot of talk if we could go back-to-back. We focused in on this being a new team, and doing our own thing. We embraced that, and we were able to accomplish the goal we set for.”

Bushland head coach Jason Culpepper echoed Adams’ comment.

“Back-to-back is hard,” Culpepper said. “I intentionally did not think about it. We were fortunate to be healthy all year, and it showed hard work paid off. I’m so proud of this team.”

The tradition-rich Bushland volleyball program has now won its unprecedented sixth state championship since the doors opened in 2005. The program was also making its incredible 10th state tournament appearance overall.

“Bushland has embraced girls athletics,”Culpepper said. “We are successful in the Texas Panhandle overall because each team pushes the next no matter the classification. We live off the tradition of the Amarillo High teams, the Hereford teams, the Dumas teams, we won a title at Randall when I was there. It’s a Texas Panhandle thing. We take pride in girls athletics”

Bushland head coach Jason Culpepper is fired up after his team takes a set against Gunter on Saturday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. [Matthew Smith/ Press Pass Sports]

Culpepper continues growing his legacy. The veteran coach won his 700th game during the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

Culpepper, who is 705-168 in 21 total seasons, has now won three state titles overall. Culpepper won his first in 2009 at Randall, followed by these consecutive titles at Bushland.

It was perfectly fitting that his youngest daughter, Logan, a junior setter, score the championship point for the Lady Falcons on Saturday with a put back attempt to get the celebration going.

“I always joke about being in the front row, and making that final point,” Logan said. “Then that moment came, and it was like slow motion. I just didn’t want to touch the net.”

Gunter rallied back from a 23-19 deficit to take the first set 26-24. Though the Lady Tigers (37-8) stayed with Bushland most of the way, the Lady Falcons were able to use their strong offense to win the next three games.

“Bushland is so well coached,” Gunter head coach Katelyn Gill said. “We made some errors we’ll not forget, but Bushland was taking away common shots. They served it well, which took us out of system. Bushland is a great program, and you see why they are here.”

Bushland junior Emma Troxell was named UIL Class 3A state tournament MVP. [Matthew Smith/ Press Pass Sports]

Junior, and Region I-3A MVP Emma Troxell earned Class 3A state MVP honors. The Division I basketball prospect knocked down 17 kills, adding two blocks. Teammate Kaela Neie added 16 kills with five blocks.

Senior Jaycee Adams wrapped up a sensational four-year for the Lady Falcons. The team captain, who hustles on every single play, will leave her legacy as a four-year standout playing in three state tournaments, and a two-time state champion. Adams fittingly wrapped up her season with 22 digs to go with that priceless gold medal Saturday.

“This is so difficult to put into words,” said Adams, who is signed to play at West Texas A&M next fall. “I’m so excited we won. But, I love this team, and I love playing for coach Culpepper. It hasn’t hit me yet that it’s over, but I’m glad we did it going out with two state championships.”

For full game stats, please visit https://www.uiltexas.org/files/athletics/state-volleyball/21vb3af.htm

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