SPRING — On to the next one.

Magnolia continued its breakthrough season and scorching two-month run with a 25-12, 25-12, 25-20 victory over Porter in the Region III-5A bi-district playoffs Thursday night at Klein Oak High School.

The postseason triumph was the first for the Lady Bulldogs (16-7) since 2016 when the team advanced to the regional quarterfinals. It was the 12th victory over the past 13 matches for Magnolia, dating back to Oct. 6.

“(They’re) extremely focused,” Magnolia coach Ashley Farris said. “We have six juniors and five seniors, so just that leadership and that experience they have and bring to the table, I think that is super helpful.”

The Lady Bulldogs will play either Pflugerville Connally or McCallum in the area round next week.

Connally (14-8) was the runner-up out of District 18-5A, while McCallum (14-3) earned the No. 3 seed out of 17-5A. Those two teams are scheduled to play Friday evening at Connally.

“I think that this game was our time to get those nerves out,” Farris said. “I’m expecting them to come out nerves-free on Tuesday. We have two hard practices ahead of us, and I’ll tell you what — that’s truly the key to our success right now is our practices. We have 14 girls that compete every day, and it just makes everyone better in the gym.”

Porter saw its season end after making the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Lady Spartans (9-10) earned the fourth seed out of a top-heavy District 20-5A but finished the year with four consecutive losses.

Despite the final result against the District 19-5A champion Lady Bulldogs, coach Doris Elizondo was proud of what her players accomplished during an unprecedented 2020 campaign. Porter was forced to quarantine due to coronavirus issues early in the season, but they found a way to bounce back from that adversity.

“I’m so proud of this group of girls,” Elizondo said. “They’ve done such a great job. The word perseverance is the only word that comes to my mind. … It’s been a long roller coaster ride, but it’s been great. The girls have never been closer. I haven’t seen a group of seniors cry like that at the end of a game in a long time. That’s because they put their heart and soul into it, and I’m definitely proud of them.”

Sydney Gentry led Magnolia with 12 kills, while Ellie Anderson and Brynn Botkin each had 11. Faith Lynch finished with 34 assists and 10 digs, and Kaylyn Fojt had 15 digs. Botkin also had 10 digs and three aces. Gentry finished with nine digs, and Marissa Moffatt added eight.

The teams battled closely early in the opening set, but Magnolia made its move with the score tied at 10. The Lady Bulldogs ripped off eight consecutive points and never looked back. They finished the victory with a 15-2 run.

“You could tell the first 10 points we were playing a little nervous,” Farris said. “But it was nice to see them get that out early in the match, and I feel like we played Magnolia volleyball tonight, so that was really good to see.”

Magnolia led wire to wire in the second set after jumping out to an early 8-2 lead. The Lady Bulldogs went ahead by double digits at 18-8 and finished off the game from there for the 2-0 advantage in the match.

Porter did not go down without a fight in the final set. After falling behind by six points early, the Lady Spartans clawed back and trailed 20-18 in the late stages. Magnolia ultimately found a way to hold them off, however.

“I feel like we were able to spread our offense, and our hitters were doing a great job executing,” Farris said. “I thought Faith ran the court very well, and I though the hitters did just a phenomenal job seeing their splits and attacking the splits.”

jpoorman@hcnonline.com

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