VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS: Seven Lakes powers past Dawson, 3-0, advance to Region III-6A Final


SUGAR LAND - Three years ago Seven Lakes made history marching into the Regional Final for the first time ever.

The lone player still on the roster today from that team – Ally Batenhorst.

The Under Armour All-American and her now fellow seniors have gotten the Spartans back within a win of the UIL State Tournament following a 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-22) victory over Pearland Dawson on Monday at Wheeler Fieldhouse.

"Freshman year I was obviously the youngest and I was looking up to a bunch of people," Ally said. "My older sister (Danielle) was a great leader to me and I think now being a senior I think I'm in the same position she was and I learned from her in that way. I'm more of a leader now for the team instead of a follower."

Dawson (23-3) was in its fourth-straight Regional Semifinal and will graduate just four seniors – Madison Petten, Alexia Jones (Houston Baptist), Chelsea Sanker and Kylie Nance – as they head into 2021.

Pearland Dawson was a program that lost 10 seniors off last year's team and despite that, an unprecedented offseason and an unconventional non-district slate, still reached the fourth round.

"I am extremely proud of them for persevering and fighting through," Pearland Dawson coach Lauren Leth said. "I was very proud of them. We will miss our [current] seniors but we are very excited about our returning talent. Because even our juniors we had playing this year were new to varsity. There's a lot of youth on that team, so we're excited to see what they're going to do next year."

Seven Lakes improves to a remarkable 24-1 and have won five-straight matches losing just one set in that streak.

The Spartans advance to the Region III-6A Championship later this week where they will face either Katy or Clear Springs, who play on Tuesday.

"It's a great feeling and a huge accomplishment," Seven Lakes coach Amy Cataline said. "We have so many great teams in our region. To be one of the last ones standing is super special. It's just a testament to the talent, work ethic and commitment all these girls have."

This Seven Lakes senior class is locked, loaded and motivated.

With 10 seniors, that is an impressive class for any coach to carry on the roster and they were all freshmen when Seven Lakes last made a run to the Regional Finals and eventually to the 2017 UIL State Volleyball Tournament.

"They were all here and so they want to do what they saw all those upperclassmen do," Cataline said.

When Seven Lakes lost in the area round to Cy-Fair a year ago, Mayo Olibale said the then-juniors started talking about their goals for 2020 - their last season.

"We were just like 'it's our last year, we want to go out with a bang'," Olibale, a Harvard-signee, said. "We want to leave a good legacy and be leaving on a good note. We've been talking about this since the last game we had last season."

For libero Kailey Bickel, who had the final ace of Monday's 3-0 win over Pearland Dawson, said she knew this group was special back in January during the offseason.

"We knew with 10 seniors, great starting lineup, great followers, just a great team," the Berry College-commit said. "We knew all together we need to leave it as strong as we can."

For SMU-commit Casey Batenhorst her memory of the last time Seven Lakes reached the Regional Final and eventual State Tournament came from the stands. Casey was just an eighth grader at the time watching older sisters Danielle and Ally play.

Casey remembers the heart and intensity of that team and watching that team made her love volleyball even that much more.

"The game against Ridge Point [in the third round in 2017] made me love volleyball," Casey said. "I just wanted to be there with them."

And now she is.

As Cataline paces the sideline with her clipboard watching, the coach is just soaking in every moment with this senior class.

"I just can't wait to see them on the court again, they just want it so bad," she said about the team. "They're just playing at a different level right now because they want it so bad."