Tradition-rich Bushland eyes back-to-back state championship

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Bushland opens the UIL Class 3A state tournament taking on Columbus in a semifinal at 11 a.m., Thursday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

It’s almost impossible to have a University Interscholastic League state volleyball tournament without the Bushland Lady Falcons.

Since opening its doors in 2005, Bushland asserted immediate dominance with the volleyball program.

The tradition-rich Lady Falcons will be making an unprecedented 10th trip to the state tourney with five state championships under their belts. Bushland went back-to-back in 2007-2008, won two under Texas Panhandle Hall of Fame coach, JaNeen Eudy, in 2013, and 2016, and is now looking for another repeat run after claiming the UIL Class 3A state title last year.

“You never take it for granted when you get to the state tournament,” said Bushland head coach Jason Culpepper, who will be making his 11th total appearance at state between Randall and Bushland. “Everything has to click. It says a lot for this program to be making it 10 times. It says that this school put a lot into girls athletics.

“All of our programs are great. It’s been the athletes that have bought into everything out here since they started varsity sports.”

Many questions loomed if Bushland could make another run to state in 2021. The Lady Falcons lost the TGCA Class 3A Player of the Year in Kinley Rudder, and All-State setter Taryn Shultz.

But bringing back senior All-State Libero and team captain, Jaycee Adams, as well as Kaela Neie, Madyson Eberly, Emma Troxell, Megan Potter, along with setters Millie Maupin, and Culpepper’s daughter, Logan, the Lady Falcons picked up where they left off.

“It’s been a goal to back and defend our title,” said Adams, who has 391 digs with 32 aces this season. “We’re here now, and we’re not done. It’s exciting to get a chance to go defend our title.”

Bushland roared through District 1-3A at 6-0, extending its district win streak to 77 matches dating back to 2011. Through five matches in the playoffs, the Lady Falcons have been equally dominant, only dropping one set throughout, and that was to No. 3-ranked Holliday in the Region 1-3A championship.

“We work hard at everything we do,” Maupin said. “We know the competition at state is going to be extremely tough, but our focus is to control what we can control. Coach Culpepper teaches that to us the most. So our goal is to go to Garland, and come back with another state championship.”

Bushland (33-5 overall) will face Columbus at 1 p.m., Thursday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.

The Lady Cardinals (38-8), coached by Kayley Johns, are making their fourth overall appearance at state, and first since 2015.

“Columbus is a good team,” Culpepper said. “They’ve been here before as well. They are a younger team, but really well-coached. They run their outside hitters a lot. We’ll have to rely on good blocking, and great defense.”

If Bushland wins its semifinal match, the Lady Falcons will face the Gunter-Lorena winner for the state championship at 11 a.m. Saturday.

For a full look at the UIL state volleyball tournament schedule, please visit the link https://www.presspasssports.com/post/uil-state-tournament-volleyball-schedule

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