Lady Cougars season ends in Longview

The Lady Cougars singing the Leon School Song after defeating Brazos on Friday night in Longview. See more photos from the three final games by clicking on the photo tab at www.jewettmessengeronline.com

What a ride. This team of freshman, sophomores, a junior and a senior exceeded a lot of expectations this volleyball season. The team easily defeated every team in District 18 to win the school’s 10th straight district title in a row. They played four tough postseason games against teams that just kept getting better the deeper they got into the playoffs. They won Bi-District, Area, Regional-Quarterfinal and Regional Semifinal games to finish the season as one of the eight best 3A teams in the state of Texas and took their last opponent to five sets in their last game of the season. It was a remarkable season that many may have thought of as a rebuilding year. After losing six seniors last year, only Kaydee Honeycutt, Sarah Grace Merry and Rosemary Riveria remained from the team that went to the State Tournament in 2016. Caroline Richmond, Raelyn Theiss, Allee Pervis, Maddie Thomas, Camyrn Davidson and Jordan Robinson joined the varsity team this year and had some pretty big shoes to fill. It’s a credit to Coach Jason Evans and his staff, Teresa Sitton, Vickie Carrigan, Logan Smoak and Cory Horne for preparing this young team for the long season and all that is required to be successful, but it’s also a credit to each member of the team for their willingness to work hard, bond as a team and have the strong desire to be the best they can be. That desire came through loud and clear as this team reached a place that most high school volleyball teams rarely get to experience. They may not have made another record setting appearance in the state tournament, but they came about as close as you can get and for that they should be congratulated. Thanks for a great season, Lady Cougars, and a great ride.
Recap of last week’s games:
Leon 3-Little River Academy 1
The Lady Cougars escaped the Lady Bees of Little River Academy last Tuesday, November 7, with a 3-1 match win in the Regional Quarterfinal game. Leon won sets 1, 3 and 4 by scores of 25-12, 25-17, 25-15. The Lady Bees won set two in a squeaker 27-25.
Kaydee Honeycutt started the scoring for Leon with a kill. She had 9 kills in the set and ended the scoring with a service ace to win the set 25-12. Caroline Richmond and Sarah Grace Merry continued to be strong in the middle, blocking several hard shots by the Bees. Rosemary Rivera, Camyrn Davidson and Allee Pervis had kills in the set.
Once again, Kaydee Honeycutt got the Cougars off to a good start with two quick kills in set two, but the Bees answered with hard kills and Leon made a few technical errors to give up the lead. The Lady Bees took full advantage of the Leon errors and rang up 6 unanswered points before the Cougars could regroup. The rally fell just short with the Bees hanging on for a 2 point win, 27-25.
The Lady Cougars came out and worked their game plan in the last two sets. Little River managed to tie set 3 at 14 all, but never took the lead in either set. Rosemary Rivera took some good sets from Jordan Robinson and made them count. Sarah Grace Merry has mastered the unassisted kill any time the ball hangs over the net and Allee Pervis added a big kill to make the score 20-16. Kaydee Honeycutt scored the last three points in set three with digs by Richmond and Rivera and sets by Robinson.
Leon rolled into set four and twice doubled up the score on the Bees at 12-6 and 18-9. It wasn’t perfect, but Leon looked confident in the winning the set 25-15. Little River may have pushed too hard and made several unforced errors in an effort to regain some momentum in the match. Both teams played hard from start to finish. In the end Leon earned the chance to move on to the Regional Tournament.
Leon 3-Brazos 1
In a repeat of last year’s Regional Semifinal, Leon met the Brazos Wallis Lady Cougarettes on Friday, November 10 for the chance to advance to the final round before the State Tournament. Both teams played tentatively to begin the first set, each trying to get a feel for the court and the opposition. Brazos broke on top and led by 4 points before Leon found their legs. There were six ties and four lead changes in the set before Leon went up for good on an ace by Rosemary Rivera and an unassisted kill by Sarah Grace Merry to win the set 25-23.
The teams settled down for set two but still played close for each point. Leon finally got some breathing room at 14-11 and increased their lead to 20-13 with kills by Caroline Richmond and Kaydee Honeycutt. Richmond also had a block for a point. Brazos committed three technical errors and Leon secured the win with another unassisted kill by Merry. Great defense played by Rivera and Richmond in the set.
Leon’s strong defense continued in the third set, but on several plays, good defense was followed by a costly mistake. Two big digs by Merry and a great save by Raelyn Theiss were wasted in the set. Leon stayed close but two balls landed out of bounds to give Brazos the 25-23 set win.
Brazos took a 4-point lead early in the fourth set but committed an error to allow Theiss to get to the service line. RT had a good match delivering unreturned serves in the last set. She was at the line when Leon ran off 6 unanswered points to take a 1-point lead.  Leon held that lead for the rest of the set. Sarah Grace Merry scored the winner on a dig by Richmond and set by Honeycutt and the Cougars took a few minutes to celebrate the victory before thinking about the next match against East Bernard on the following day.
Leon 2-East Bernard 3
A handful of names are usually recognizable each year around Regional Tournament time. Leon, Brazos, Maypearl, Poth, Beckville and East Bernard are always in the hunt for a state title. This year, just like last, Leon met the Brahmarettes from East Bernard in the Regional Final match. Leon swept EB in three sets last year before losing to Peaster in the State Semifinal. This year the Brahmarettes brought in a more experienced team loaded with seniors and juniors who remembered the 2016 loss and were ready for some payback. The first set was all EB – they jumped on Leon early and won going away 24-13. Senior Jessica Rabius seemed to have Leon’s number and scored at will in the set. Seniors Kristin Kieler and Maycie Atteberry were Cougar killers as well.
Leon came out in set two and began to show their talent and desire to win. With the score 8-4 Leon, East Bernard mounted a comeback, but Leon stayed point for point right up to 18 all. A couple of miscues by Leon made the score 20-19 EB. An unassisted kill by Caroline Richmond, a kill by Honeycutt, a dink by Rivera and the final kill by Honeycutt won the set 25-22.
When two teams are evenly matched, the errors are what make the difference and Leon made just a few more than East Bernard in set 3. There were some big hits and loud kills by both teams but errors cost Leon the set 25-21.
Leon would not go quietly. In the fourth set the big guns came out with kills by Honeycutt, Richmond, Merry and Pervis; blocks by Richmond and Camyrn Davidson and defense by Rivera and Theiss coupled by good sets by Jordan Robinson and Honeycutt and Leon took a 25-20 win.
Both teams fought hard for this victory. Neither team wanted their season to end but there are only five sets in a match and somebody was going to walk out with a Regional trophy after the deciding set. Down 2-1, Kaydee Honeycutt took a set from Robinson and hammered it for the tie. Once again a few bad hits and Leon was down 6-3. The Lady Cougars clawed back to within one at 7-8, but the Brahmarettes would not be denied. They finished the set 15-10 and the match 3-2. The teams met at the net for laughs and tears and Leon’s season was in the books.
Leon had another great season. They went further in the playoffs than  195 other 3A high school volleyball teams in the state and collected trophies and awards along the way. The small, but vocal crowd of Leon fans gave the team a standing ovation before the Lady Cougars gathered in a circle on the court for one last prayer to end the 2017 season.

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