SACHSE VOLLEYBALL SHALIYAH RHODEN

Shaliyah Rhoden and Sachse are headed back to the playoffs after earning a share of the 9-6A championship.

Sachse has never missed the volleyball playoffs since opening in 2004.

So while all teams have had to adjust to a different landscape due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Mustangs have tried to maintain business as usual as much as possible.

A big part of that routine is winning and that has not been affected as Sachse not only extended its streak of playoff appearances to 17 in a row, it claimed at least a share of its eighth straight district championship.

The Mustangs, who are 20-2 and ranked No. 18 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 6A state poll, will face Tyler Legacy (11-5), who finished in a tie for third place in 10-6A, in the bi-district playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at Wills Point.

Sachse traditionally tries to play a difficult non-district slate to prepare them for this time of the year, but due to an abbreviated schedule, they had fewer opportunities.

The Mustangs did post wins back in September over playoff teams in Allen and Coppell, and the mixed in midseason sweep of 13-5A champion Highland Park, but the bulk of their matches were against district competition.

Sachse rolled through that group for the most part, sweeping every match with the exception of its showdowns with Wylie, which saw the Mustangs win the first meeting in five games and the Pirates claim the rematch in four sets.

That last serious challenge came back on Oct. 27, though, and Sachse wanted to make sure it was battle-tested for the road that lies ahead.

So the Mustangs squeezed in a pair of tune-up matches during the last week, testing itself in a three-game loss to defending Class 5A state champion and TGCA No. 1 Lovejoy on Saturday and earning a hard-fought 25-21, 29-27, 26-28, 21-25, 15-13 victory over state-ranked Prosper on Monday.

Last season, Sachse advanced three rounds deep in the playoffs before falling to the aforementioned Prosper in the regional quarterfinals and feels it has the personnel to make another run.

The Mustangs are talented and experienced at the net with 5-9 senior Shaliyah Rhoden, 6-1 senior Kayla Grant and 6-0 senior Sydney Ross, 5-10 sophomore Macy Taylor is had a breakout season, senior Ryann Spears and junior Macy Puckett have been solid and 6-0 freshman Favor Anyanwu has proven to be a huge addition.

Sachse has one of the best setters in the state in senior Claire Romo, as well as one of the top liberos in junior Zoria Heard and junior Emily Westbrook has filled a couple of roles as a setter and defensive specialist. The Mustangs’ have also had the opportunity to play a full roster, getting contributions from senior Karissa Korinek, juniors Jayla Jones and Camryn Parker and sophomores Bailey Malone and Chi Tran.

The Mustangs understand the road will not be easy. While Sachse is favored on Friday, a potential date with 12-6A champion Killeen Harker Heights could be up next and the third round could feature No. 10 Mansfield, or a Rockwall-Heath team that pushed Sachse to five games in the area finals a year ago

The bottom half of the bracket is also formidable, headlined by undefeated and Class 6A No. 1 Klein.

But the Mustangs are not going to be intimidated by gaudy records or rankings, as they have those numbers of their own. Sachse’s focus will remain on itself and reaching its potential.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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