High School Volleyball

Vandegrift holds off late Leander charge

Both teams move to 2-2 in District 25-6A


Volleyball truly is a game of runs and Vandegrift and Leander found that out firsthand on Tuesday night. 

The Lady Vipers held on despite a charge from the Lady Lions in the third and fourth sets, downing them 3-1 (25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 27-25) at home Tuesday night. Both teams are now 2-2 in District 25-6A play. 

“It seems we get to 15 and lose a little bit of focus, the girls want to make it interesting,” Vandegrift head coach Melissa Southall said. “We still are working on that in practice in trying to finish and play until the end and not getting comfortable in any way.”

Ryan Palmieri led Vandegrift with 20 kills and finished with a team-best 14 digs. Delaney Dilfer had 29 digs to lead the Lady Vipers, while senior Natalie Duffield added 24. Annie Stadthaus had five blocks and Simone Priebe had a pair of aces. 

For Leander, Mackenzie Catalina led the way with 16 kills and a pair of aces. Pilar Gonzaba had 55 assists and Isabel Gonzaba had 18 digs. Riley Cotton had four blocks for the Lady Lions.

“What I teach my kids is to not only play volleyball but to play volleyball to beat the team across from us,” Leander head coach Ashley Atkinson said. “We were too worried about our errors instead of moving on from the point. We started thinking about how we score points instead of how we’re losing points as the match went on.”

Leander won the first point of the opening set, but Vandegrift fought back with five straight and continued to cruise until late in the set when the Lady Lions cut the lead to five points and forced a timeout, but Vandegrift scored out of the break. 

Both teams traded the lead in the early part of the second set. But Leander stormed back to take a 22-20 lead before Vandegrift scored six of the final nine points to take a two-set lead. 

Vandegrift opened an early lead in the third set and it was the Lady Lions that made quite the run, winning 13 of the final 18 points to cut the lead in half. 

That momentum continued into the fourth set when Leander opened up a 7-3 lead early on. Vandegrift recovered and the teams traded points for the rest of the set including Leander winning two points facing match point. 

“There are tons of positives from this game,” Atkinson said. “To be as poor as we were the first set to come back and be battling the next three sets was great. There is some mental stuff we have to work on, but the kids fought hard and the defense improved a ton.”

Vandegrift opened up the district season with a 3-1 loss to Lake Travis before beating Lehman and traveling to Hays to get swept by the Lady Rebels. Leander won its first two district matches against Lehman and Vista Ridge before getting swept by Westlake last Friday night. 

“Being 2-2 is not exhilarating,” Southall said. “We had a lot of things that we knew we were going to have to work on and we knew the district was going to be difficult. We’re just trying to stay positive and focus on us and redeem some of those losses that I think we could’ve won.”

Leander and Vandegrift are tied for fourth place after four district games. Westlake is still undefeated atop the district standings after handing Lake Travis its first loss of the season, and Hays won to move into second place. 

The Lady Lions have their second straight road game when they travel to face off with Lake Travis on Friday night. The Lady Vipers, meanwhile, have a bye on Friday night and are next in action next Tuesday at Vista Ridge. 

“There are always things to work on,” Atkinson said. “I’m happy with where we are with a couple tough games ahead of us. The team can’t get complacent or frustrated and keep going from there. I just want them to see getting better.”