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Kennedale
Thursday, December 3, 2020

Lady Kats fired up for volleyball playoffs

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District 9-4A champions begin postseason play Tuesday

The Kennedale volleyball team went 12-0 in District 9-4A and lost only one set ? 25-14 at Castleberry on Oct. 16. But rather than the one that got away, it just might be the one that lit the way.? {{more: continue …}}

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?That made us so mad and really fueled our fire,? senior co-captain Grace Guadagnolo said. ?It made us want it even more. It was unfortunate to drop a set to that team. Granted, they were giving a fight, too. But after we lost, we really just said, ?No more of that.? ?
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Oak Cliff Faith up next …?
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Kennedale closed out third-place Castleberry in the next set, then swept Dunbar and second-place Benbrook to charge into the postseason. The Lady Kats will meet Oak Cliff Faith Family Academy in bi-district at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Grand Prairie High School.
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Oak Cliff FFA finished fourth in District 10-4A and is an underdog against Kennedale (24-16), which won its fifth district championship in a row and its first outright title since 2015. Guadagnolo has been on four of those teams, and she leads this year?s group in digs (319) and aces (67). Junior setter Lilly Rychlik tops the team in assists (543), sophomore outside hitter Bryley Steinhilber in kills (328) and freshman middle blocker Maddie Pyles in blocks (164).?

Maddie Pyles (13) and Bryley

Steinhilber, shown stopping a Lake Worth attack, lead the Lady Kats in blocks

and kills, respectively ? photo Staci Otts

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?I?ve been on both sides of that,? said Rychlik, a co-captain who as a freshman shared time with a senior setter, and now splits the setting with freshman Gracyn Reed (406 assists). ?In the long run, age or class doesn?t matter. We all made the same team. We?re all on the same level. And we?re all competing for the same goal.?
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That mindset also has been evident during several moves made by first-year Kennedale coach Kelly Carl. Before district, Steinhilber shifted from middle to outside, Spell did the opposite, and Guadagnolo left libero to play all six rotations. Others also have manned multiple positions in varying lineups.
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Carl said the Steinhilber-Spell switch ?gave us more options. It proved selflessness. Both of them made the selfless move to change spots for the better of the team. And that?s been probably our whole thing with our team. Everybody?s had to switch and just keep going, and they don?t complain, and they high-five each other, and its like, ?Cool, now you get to wear the [libero] jersey. Now you get to run in that spot.? ?
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Aubrey would follow …?
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If Kennedale wins Tuesday, its second-round opponent would be Aubrey (27-15), which beat Dallas Lincoln 3-0 on Monday. Aubrey was third in District 11-4A, a league the Lady Kats know well. In tournament play in August, Kennedale swept 11-4A fourth seed Celina and lost a lead in falling to 11-4A co-champion Sanger. If the Lady Kats get past Aubrey, they probably would meet Sanger (26-17) in the third round. Sanger beat Dallas Roosevelt 3-0 on Monday.
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Aubrey and Sanger split matches against each other and have 6-1 standouts. Aubrey?s is junior hitter Kaia Saylor, a Texas Woman?s University commit, and Sanger?s is senior middle Sydney Price. Carl called Saylor ?a powerhouse hitter. But if we play our game, it?s in our hands. Absolutely.?
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Furthermore, Kennedale is no stranger to size. The Lady Kats played four Class 6A-playoff-qualifying teams and seven more that made the 5A postseason. Kennedale even earned a four-set win against L.D. Bell, which advanced out of District 3-6A.
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Said Carl: ?When you take on some of those teams, you?re playing at such a faster pace. ? We definitely played a tough preseason, which can only help us. How we played Bell proves that was to our benefit.?
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?… could lead to a lengthy playoff run??
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It?s the kind of schedule and preparation that could lead to a lengthy playoff run. The Lady Kats haven?t made one of those in some time. Their last third-round trip came in 2010, and they lost in the second round in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
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Carl called it a ?cloud? and said she doesn?t feel it coming this time. Neither does Guadagnolo, who spoke of her team as skilled, cohesive and much-improved from the beginning of the season.
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?We started off with a lot of talent,? she said, ?but it was kind of floating around. Now we own that talent. It?s ours now, and we?re going to use it.?
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Although the Lady Kats have no 6-footers, Guadagnolo added, ?We have a 6-foot mentality. I think we brought that to district and it allowed us to dominate, and I think that it can help us go farther now.?
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