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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Lady Kats climbing into district play

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Volleyball team going for fifth straight title …

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The Kennedale volleyball team has seen its share of tight matches. Perhaps the most intense came in late August in front of an electric Elks crowd in Burleson. The fifth set saw Kennedale trail 5-1, tie it at 5-5, trail 10-5, take an 11-10 lead and finally fall 15-13. {{more: continue …}}
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?That could have been our pivotal moment,? first-year Lady Kats coach Kelly Carl said. ?That could have been where we got over the mountaintop and really proved it to ourselves and everybody else that, ?Hey, we?re here in a big way.? But we didn?t finish, so I told the girls we?ve got to conquer that mountain one more time. But I know and they know it?s within reach for us.?
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district opener tonight …?
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Kennedale?s climb continues at 4:30 p.m. Friday, when it plays host to Fort Worth Dunbar in a District 9-4A opener. The Lady Kats have won or shared the league title four straight seasons. They split the last two trophies with Springtown, which along with Mineral Wells was realigned and replaced with Dunbar and Western Hills. Also in the league are Benbrook, Castleberry, Diamond Hill-Jarvis and Lake Worth.?

First-year Kennedale coach

Kelly Carl talks with her team during the Nike ASC/LISD Classic. The Lady Kats

were runners-up in the tournament?s Division 2.

Kennedale?s 11-15 record includes a second-place finish in Division 2 of the Nike ASC/LISD Classic and a comeback win against Class 3A state-tournament-qualifier Boyd in Argyle?s Sawyer Camillo Memorial Tournament. Among the losses in the Lady Kats? loaded schedule were setbacks to Byron Nelson (No. 2 in Class 6A in the most recent Texas Girls Coaches Association poll) and Frisco Wakeland (No. 1 in 5A).
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Kats have experience …?
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Lots of Lady Kats have picked up where they left off a season ago. Co-captain Grace Guadagnolo was named 7-4A?s most valuable defender after posting 505 digs in 2017. The four-year varsity player has 241 digs, 74 kills and 19 aces this season, as she has moved from libero to a six-rotation player.
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Co-captain Lilly Rychlik led the league with a school-season-record 917 assists and 69 aces and made the all-district first team a year ago. Now a junior, she?s added 317 assists and 24 aces in 2018.
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Bryley Steinhilber totaled 241 kills, 80 blocks and 48 aces in earning 7-4A?s top newcomer award last season. The 5-11 sophomore leaper has moved from middle blocker to outside hitter and has 164 kills and 64 blocks. Another sophomore, Katie Spell, has moved from outside to inside. She had 241 kills and made the all-district first team last season, and in 2018 has 102 kills, 28 blocks and 15 aces.
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Other returners up front are senior Kyndall Daniel (34 blocks) and sophomore Angel Mahjou (53 kills). Seniors Mi Nguyen and Katie Groff provide help on the back row.
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plus youth …?
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New to the varsity are sophomore Tatum Pavey, who has shared libero duties and has 113 digs, and four freshmen: middle blocker Maddie Pyles, libero-and-more Taylor Poore, setter Gracyn Reed and right-side hitter Bridget Barton. Pyles, a 5-10 athlete with a big reach, has 168 kills, 117 blocks and 18 aces. She was named top offensive player for 4A-and-below teams in the Nike ASC/LISD Classic. Reed splits setting with Rychlik and has 239 assists and 17 aces. Poore (137 digs) has played almost everywhere on the court, and Barton has 111 kills and 31 blocks.
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Said Carl: ?The way these sophomores and freshmen play, I don?t think they know that they?re young. Despite people telling them that, they don?t care, because they?re here to compete. And the older players — and this is really unique and speaks a ton to their character — they don?t care about the age thing. They care, ?Can you put down the balls?? I think that?s why we?ve developed chemistry so quickly. The older ones, they?re not prideful, like, ?They?re little ones.? It?s more like, ?Oh, the little ones can go.? That?s so key. Hopefully that builds my little ones in the character department, too.?
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Character was on full display in the Lady Kats? first-round playoff victory against Stephenville last season. After losing sets 25-11 and 25-14 and struggling early in the third set, Kennedale rocketed to wins of 25-21, 25-17 and 18-16 — punctuated with a Rychlik set and Steinhilber hammer that probably still echoes in Aledo?s gym.
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#PrettyAndGritty …?
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Carl mentioned that match?s momentum swing in her first meeting with Lady Kats parents after coming over from Frisco Lone Star, where she had coached since the school?s opening in 2010. She said the comeback was a perfect example of the latter portion of her #PrettyAndGritty team motto.
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And during the first month of the season, she?s found even more to like about her new team and town.
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?The biggest thing I?ve noticed and appreciated has been the town?s support — not only support for a new coach, but support for the girls,? Carl said. ?This isn?t any shade on Lone Star. I just appreciate how much Kennedale values our girl athletes. And I told the girls this: In this town, people are going to bleed green. They?re Kennedale for life. The tradition here is long-lasting. It?s interwoven.?
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