GARLAND--Sachse and Rockwall entered Tuesday’s third-round playoff match expecting to play for a while in what many anticipated as an evenly-matched showdown.
The two teams had followed very similar paths to their date with destiny.
Both teams had run their respective district slates unblemished with nary a serious challenge en route to championships.
That carried over into the playoffs, where the Mustangs and Yellowjackets each swept their first two opponents.
Perhaps the only tipping point in Rockwall’s favor was a 25-23, 25-13, 25-19 sweep of Sachse back on Aug. 17.
But a lot can change in three months and that was certainly the case on Tuesday, as the Mustangs pulled through when it mattered most for a 26-24, 18-25, 25-22, 18-25, 15-12 victory in a Class 6A Region II quarterfinal match in front of a spirited crowd at the Curtis Culwell Center.
Sachse improves to 36-10 as it returns to the Region II tournament, where it will take on Cypress Bridgeland (37-11), a winner over Cypress Woods on Tuesday, in a semifinal match at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lufkin Multipurpose Facility.
The Yellowjackets (27-15) had the momentum after capturing the most decisive set of the first four with a 25-15 victory to force a winner-take-all game.
The teams traded points early, with Macy Taylor recodring two of her 16 kills for the Mustangs, only to be matched by Rockwall’s Becca Kelley, who had a huge match with 28 kills, six blocks and four aces.
The Yellowjackets edged out to a 8-6 advantage when Sachse freshman Kaelynn Sims made a huge defensive play with a block of Kelley to get back to within one.
Though Rockwall was able to hold on to the lead for bit, that changed when Macy Puckett stepped behind the service line.
Trailing by one, Puckett reeled off a five-point run, which included kills from Taylor and Favor Anyanwu, to bring the Mustangs to match point at 14-11.
The Yellowjackets staved off one elimination point, but not another, as an errant hit landed wide, sparking a huge Sachse celebration on the court, as they returned to the regional tournament for the second straight season and the fourth time in program history.
Anyanwu paced the Mustangs with 18 kills and eight blocks, Sims had eight kills and four blocks and Puckett provided eight kills. In addition to Kelley, Madison Goellner registered a dozen kills and Feyi Ogunlari and Elizabeth Schaefer also delivered big points for the Yellowjackets.
The opening set was close through the early stages, before a four-point service run by Scarlette Young, which included a kill from Taylor and a block from Sims and Camryn Parker, helped Sachse edge out to a 13-8 lead.
Rockwall refused to go anywhere, as a kill by Kelley set up her own five-point run, capped by back-to-back kills from Goellner to give them a 20-18 advantage.
The Yellowjackets maintained a one-point cushion until a kill from Sims and an ace from Taylor put the Mustangs in front at 23-22.
The set was tied at 24-24 when Anyanwu took care of the rest, with back-to-back kills to give Sachse a 26-24 game-one victory.
That carried over into the second set, as points from Puckett, Taylor and Sims helped the Mustangs to a 7-4 lead.
But Goellner had a kill and then stepped behind the service line on a five-point run, that included an ace, kills from Kelley and Ogunlari and another block from Kelley to grab a 13-8 advantage.
Rockwall stretched the lead to as large as eight after a kill by Goellner at 21-13, but Sachse made a push, with a pair of smashes from Taylor and a block by Anyanwu to make it 23-18.
But the Yellowjackets were able to close it out on a kill by Kelley to even the match at one set each.
Rockwall led for much of the first half of the third game before Taylor had two kills during a four-point serving run by Puckett to take a 16-15 lead.
Goellner’s two kills helped the Yellowjackets edge back in front, 21-18, but Sims had back-to-back kills and Anyanwu had two points during Emily Westbrook’s four-point serving run to close out a 25-22 win.
With its back against the wall, and its season on the line, Kelley responded for Rockwall with eight kills in the fourth game as it turned a 11-9 game into a 20-12 lead.
Sachse hung around for a moment, but Goellner had two kills and Anna Villarreal’s ace sent it to a Game 5.
The Yellowjackets had momentum in their corner, but it merely set the stage for the Mustangs to show just how far they have come in the last three months.