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State champs prove too much for Prosper

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Prosper junior Nikki Steinheiser

Prosper junior Nikki Steinheiser made her return from injury to outside hitter Tuesday night in the loss to Flower Mound.

PROSPER – The Prosper volleyball team had the defending Class 6A state champions on the ropes but let them off the hook – twice, to be exact.

Flower Mound, ranked No. 2 in the state, mounted two vigorous comeback efforts in sets two and three Tuesday night and went on to complete the sweep over No. 12-ranked Prosper (25-21, 25-22, 25-22).

“I’m proud of our girls’ ability to fight back every time, but I told them there is no reason to be satisfied with that win,” said Jamie Siegel, Flower Mound head coach. “It’s like we put our foot off the gas and started relaxing, but I have experienced players that know we preach one point at a time. We have mentally tough practices, and I also think that helps a lot.”

In each of the last two sets, Prosper held a 19-15 advantage over the Lady Jaguars before one of the nation’s top teams flexed its muscle down the stretch.

After the Lady Eagles took a four-point lead late in the second set on a kill by junior outside hitter Nikki Steinheiser, two of Flower Mound’s superstars in junior outside hitter Kaylee Cox and senior middle blocker Maci Godbey began to take over.

The dynamic duo sparked a 4-0 run to tie things up at 19 apiece before junior outside hitter Angelique Cyr helped put it away with back-to-back thunderous kills to give the Lady Jaguars the lead for good.

Cox crushed eight of her game-high 17 kills in that second set, as her ability to soar above the net provided problems for Prosper all night long.

“[Cox] just contacts so high above the block,” said Erin Kauffman, Prosper head coach. “We tried going with a rotational defense, and we had some mental mistakes on defense. She was hitting up and over the block almost every single time and that’s hard to prepare for.”

Then in the third, after Flower Mound started things off with a 5-0 run to take a 7-5 lead on a kill from senior outside hitter Riley Abernethy, Prosper’s Sami Jacobs led the charge to get her squad back into the game.

The junior outside hitter slammed seven of her team-high 15 kills in the final set alone and spearheaded an 8-2 run in which she accounted for three kills and a big-time block to put the Lady Eagles up, 13-9.

Junior middle blockers Taylor Youtsey and Shaylee Shore then got in the mix with a pair of kills to expand the Prosper lead to five at 19-14 before Flower Mound showed why it’s a state title contender once again.

Three kills by Cox, a pair of aces from sophomore setter Megan Farris and a kill from sophomore middle blocker Isabella Ortiz all of a sudden gave the Lady Jaguars just their second lead of the set. Moments later, Cox sent over a devastating kill to push the advantage to three at 23-20, and that’s all Flower Mound needed to hang on for the sweep.

“At the end of the day, we need to find some consistency,” Kauffman said. “You can like the way they fought for the first 20 points, but in my opinion, they need to give me five more points. We crumbled at the end and expected to lose. Props to Flower Mound, they are very confident. They were able to close it out and we couldn’t.”

As wild as the homestretch of the match was, the first set displayed more inconsistency than either of the final two sets.

Flower Mound started off the contest with a commanding 8-1 lead and even forced Kauffman to take her first timeout just five points into the game. That lead then jumped to nine at 11-2 and after trading points for the middle chunk of the set, the Lady Jaguars stormed ahead on a 5-0 run for their largest lead of the night at 22-10.

Just when it appeared as if Flower Mound was going to cruise to a double-digit triumph, the Lady Eagles woke up and reeled off 11 of the next 13 points. In fact, they even cut the deficit to three at 24-21 with an impressive 6-0 streak but it was just too little, too late.

Prosper was without the services of two starters Tuesday with sophomore setter Jazzlyn Ford and junior right side Bailey Birmingham both out with injury. All the while, Steinheiser made her return to outside hitter as she also battles back from injury and hopes to be ready to go for district play.

District 9-6A action will kick off Sept. 13 when Prosper hits the road to take on McKinney, while Flower Mound also starts 6-6A competition that same night at Irving MacArthur.

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