GARLAND — After dropping its only game of the season to a Class 4A team, Carthage Head Coach Dawn Stewart and the Lady Dawgs spoke about the future of the program.
After reaching the state volleyball tournament for the first time since 2003, a new bar is set in Carthage.
Hereford claimed the title of the only one in the classification to beat Carthage with a sweep (25-18, 25-19, 25-23) in a Class 4A state semifinal on Thursday at the Curtis Culwell Center.
Carthage’s storied season, the best in program history, concludes at 41-5. Hereford (35-14) advances to Saturday’s state final and will meet either Lamar Fulshear or Kennedale at 1 p.m.
“We really have nothing to hang our heads about,” Stewart said. “Of course, you want to win it all, but we set some goals at the beginning of the year and we accomplished a lot of them.
“We had a goal to get here and now, in the future, our goal will be to win it. I’m incredibly proud of these seniors and their leadership.”
Carthage, who staved off elimination in the regional semifinal round after staring at match point, went down swinging against a Hereford team that boasts a big swing of its own.
Hereford, making its ninth state appearance, used size at the net to come away with 18 blocks overall and had big nights from Taytum Stow, a 6-3 sophomore, up front and Darcy Dodd. The two combined for 26 kills.
“They came out and were really aggressive,” Stewart said. “They swung really well and were confident in what they did. Being a storied program, they’ve been there.
“Once we shook off the nerves, we started playing but in this game, you’ve got to bounce back quicker or it’s too late.”
For Carthage, senior Cami Hicks led the way with 12 kills and a block. Sophomore Faith Kruebbe followed with nine kills, matching senior Jada McLin. Kristen Stewart and McKenna Zett, both seniors, had five and four kills, respectively.
Stewart finished with 30 assists and Chesney Baker led with 15 digs. Stewart and Zett also finished with eight digs against Hereford, which finished with a .315 percent attack.
For the Lady Whitefaces, Rainey Aven had 27 assists and Dodd added 14 digs against Carthage, which had a .188 attack percentage.
The start Thursday was indicative of the two of the final four teams standing squaring off with a crisp showing both ways. Hereford jumped out a 7-4 lead with all 11 points being coming on kills before the first error.
Carthage finished with 19 errors overall and Hereford 11.
Dodd had a deep kill to put Hereford up, 15-11, and the combination of Stow and Nickilah Whatley, a freshman who finished with seven kills, finished off the 25-18 win.
A kill from Hicks gave Carthage its first lead of the match at 4-3 before Alyssa Vallejo constructed a 6-0 run at the stripe to put Hereford on top.
Hicks had a block and a kill in the first of two 3-0 runs from the Lady Dawgs, the second tying things up at 17-all. From there Hannah Woods, after two kills from Aven, went on a 5-0 run, taking advantage of three Carthage errors, put Hereford up, 2-0, with a 25-19 win.
The third set was a battle from the start.
After a 6-6 tie, Addison Surratt went on a 4-0 run to put Carthage ahead, 11-9. The rest of the set featured ties at 12, 13, 16 and, lastly, 22-22.
Miranda Ascota guided the final push for Hereford, who got a final kill from Stow for the 25-23 win to send the Lady Whitefaces into Saturday’s final.
Carthage graduates seniors Stewart, Baker, Zett, Surratt, McLin, Hicks and Kinsey King from its state semifinalist roster, leaving a new bar set for the program.
“It sets a new goal, a new role model for the future to come,” said Hicks, who will continue her career at Lamar University.
Added Stewart, who concludes her second season at the helm in Carthage: “I told them each step of the way to soak it up. At the end of the day, life is bigger than volleyball. They’ll look back on this moment and cherish it. This is big for us, our community and our program.”