State bound: Randall takes out rival Hereford to advance to UIL State Volleyball Tournament

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The Randall Lady Raiders celebrate after beating district rival Hereford to advance to the UIL Class 4A state volleyball tournament on Saturday afternoon at the Tiger Pit on the campus of Frenship High School. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Wolfforth – The domination of District 4-4A was on display during the Region I-4A championship game on Saturday afternoon at the Tiger Pit on the campus of Frenship High School.

Familiar rivals Randall and Hereford battled it out for a third time this season both vying for one prestigious spot in Garland at the UIL state tournament. Just like the results had it the first two times, the Lady Raiders pulled off the difficult task of beating a team three times in a season downing Hereford in four sets 22-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-22.

Randall (38-8 overall) is headed back to the state tournament for the ninth time in program history and the second time under fourth-year head coach Haleigh Burns.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team,” said Burns, who led Randall to a UIL Class 5A state runner-up appearance in 2019. “The hard work, the grit they have put in all season and to beat two really good teams like Decatur and Hereford is huge. I think we’re just getting better, and we haven’t started playing our best volleyball yet. We have two more games to show that. I’m proud of this team, my coaching staff and the Randall community.”

Burns is now sitting at 126-32 in four years at Randall and is one win shy of 200 for her career.

Randall knocked off Decatur in four sets while Hereford swept Stephenville on Friday to set up this third meeting Saturday.

Hereford got off to a fast start jumping all over the Lady Raiders in the first set. The Lady Whitefaces stormed to an 18-12 lead on the way to the 25-22 victory to take a 1-0 advantage.

But the second set on Randall was in complete control thanks to stellar defense and powerful offense. Randall exploded to a 9-2 lead to open the second set and never looked back. Junior outside hitter Jordyn Gove had six kills in the second stanza alone. In the third set the Lady Raiders defense kept Hereford off balance and found ways to create points.

“We were trying to catch a rhythm after playing last night,” Burns said. “We both know each other so well. They got us in the first game but we hit the reset button and get the energy back. We did a great job of serving and passing in the following sets. We focus on defense a lot in our gym.

Randall setter Sidney Soria was named Region I-4A Tournament MVP. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Defense wins games and we showed a lot of resilience hitting the floor and making plays all game.”

Randall was able to hold off a valiant effort from Hereford in the fourth set and the celebration was on for the Lady Raiders. Setter Sidney Soria was named the Tournament MVP. Soria was brilliant running the offense on both Friday and Saturday. Against Hereford, the sophomore dished out 52 assists, and was key defensively with 12 digs for a double-double. Soria also added four kills.

“This is so exciting,” Soria said. “We worked all season for this, and we left it all on the floor. They got up on us and we knew it would be tough. We just fought to pull ahead and kept our mindset straight.”

Burns echoed Soria’s comment.

“I don’t think people realize she’s just a sophomore,” Burns said. “”Sidney has come such a long way and she’s such a competitor. I think that’s the edge she has. She’s a tremendous setter and does anything asked of her.”

For the two days combined Soria tallied a combined 105 assists. Gove was also named as an All-Tournament selection. The hard-hitting Gove and team leader registered a double-double with 23 kills against the Lady Whitefaces and 14 digs. For the weekend, Gove combined for 47 kills and 40 digs. Tori Lowrey was sensational on Saturday. Not only did Lowrey have the game-winning kill, but she also finished the game with 12 total kills and was excellent with her serve chipping in four aces. Libero Tatum Brandt help the defense with 14 digs and passed out six assiststs.

Hereford ends a fantastic season at 37-9 overall and played in a fifth straight regional tournament. Outside hitter Nickilah Whatley was named to the All-Tournament team. Whatley knocked down 15 kills and had an impressive 16 digs against Randall. After the match, head coach Carley McCracken talked about how special her team is.

“It was a great season for us,” McCracken said. “I’ve had that group of seniors since they were in seventh grade. We were the underdogs a lot of the times most of the year with the media when it came to Randall and West Plains, but we held our own most of the time.”

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