Foster rallies big to snap Fulshear's three-year district win streak

Foster rallies big to snap Fulshear's three-year district win streak (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

RICHMOND — Before Tuesday's district showdown against Fulshear, Foster volleyball coach Morgan Hunter reminded her players they are better than they think they are. All they had to do was "put it all together," an essential intangible that had eluded the Falcons to that point.

Against Fulshear, Region III-5A's premier team, Foster heeded Hunter's words. And then the Falcons delivered.

Foster rallied dramatically for an emotionally intense 3-2 win (17-25, 25-21, 12-25, 25-21, 15-11) over Fulshear at Foster High, handing the Chargers, 2019 state champs and 2020 state finalists, their first district loss since Oct. 23, 2018, against Needville.

"It was a lot of heart and a lot of effort," Hunter said. "We talked at the beginning of the year about some goals that we want to set for ourselves. We wanted to make sure we competed and were really out on the hunt to win district, instead of just getting second like we have the last several years. Obviously, we know that's going to come down to the Fulshear-Foster matchup. Our girls just played lights out."

Foster improved to 13-12 overall and 2-0 in District 24-5A. Fulshear, which had won seven of eight games entering the night, fell to 16-12, 1-1.

"We're just young," Fulshear coach Sydney Zimmerman said. "I think we get ahead of ourselves. We start our sets out pretty quick and then we get a little comfortable. We've talked about how our district is not the strongest district in the area, and so … we get a little comfortable and think we've got it taken care of. Got too relaxed and we struggled."

Fulshear jumped out to big leads in all five sets. But every time the Chargers let up even a little bit, Foster pounced.

Fulshear led 2-1 after three sets (the third, a decisive 25-12 rout) and was up late in the fourth before Foster put together a stirring, gutsy comeback to push the game to its brink.

In the fifth set, the Falcons got clutch play after clutch play from senior outside Kamryn Williams and sophomore middle Jackie Onyechi. Williams had two kills, back-to-back, in the deciding set. Onyechi had three kills and two blocks.

"We know we're a good team," said Williams, who had 11 kills, two blocks and two aces. "We just have to keep pushing. Even when we felt like we were playing really bad in that first set, the score was still 25-17. We knew we could push through."

Zimmerman said Onyechi especially hurt the Chargers, particularly in system when she used her 5-foot-11 frame and athleticism to hit right over blocks.

"I wanted to come out and do something big for my team," said Onyechi, who finished with nine kills and six blocks. "My coach pushes me really hard to help me get where I am, and I wanted to really prove to her that I'm getting better and doing what I need to do."

Fulshear's Warren sisters, senior Brielle and freshman Bailey, were unstoppable throughout much of the game. Bailey had 22 kills. Brielle had 17 kills and a block.

But in the fifth and final set, they only combined for three points.

"Fulshear has a lot of talented hitters and does a great job scoring points," Hunter said. "We just had to find ways to respond, like making sure we fronted hitters so she could not hit through our block and getting to our spots defensively and making the plays we should."

Zimmerman commended Foster's coaching.

"I felt like Coach Hunter knew exactly what we were going to do," Zimmerman said. "They've got the athletes. Their defense stepped up against our outsides. Credit to them. They worked hard and they did not give up."

Junior Koryn Johnson had a team-high 12 kills to go with 14 digs for Foster. Sophomore Brinleigh Davis had a team-high 21 assists. Seniors Kalani Velasquez and Eliana Zepeda had 17 and 13 digs, respectively.

"It's a very huge win," Williams said. "We've had a rocky start to the season, and a win like this shows what we can do."

For Fulshear, the loss showed how far it must go.

"I think it'll light a fire under the girls and remind them that they're not where we're going to be in a couple of months when we go into playoffs," Zimmerman said. "We have a lot of work to do. We're not OK with this loss, but we've got to find a way to use it positively."