ALEDO — All season, Burleson junior outside hitter Emily Rich has dominated matches for the Lady Elk volleyball team. Tuesday night, when the Lady Elks needed Rich the most, they couldn’t break a run by Boswell to get Rich back to the front row.
With Rich on the back row, Boswell senior middle blocker Jordan McAda scored seven points during a 9-0 fourth-set run that saw the Lady Pioneers erase a 17-14 lead and go on to a match-clinching 25-21 victory.
Burleson fell to Boswell, 25-12, 25-19, 21-25, 25-21, in a Class 5A Region I quarterfinal match at Aledo. The Lady Elks (38-6) were seeking their first trip to the regional tournament since 2012, but couldn’t get things to go their way.
“We just got stuck in rotation and we couldn’t get out of it,” Burleson coach D’Anna Newton said. “We couldn’t pass the ball when we needed to. We couldn’t find an answer for their middle blocker. She just kept knocking down balls.”
Burleson held a 17-14 lead in the fourth set and seemed on the verge of possibly forcing a deciding fifth set. But McAda took over and helped the Lady Pioneers (32-14) to a 23-17 lead.
Rich had two big kills to get the Lady Elks to within 24-21, but after a Boswell time-out the Lady Pioneers were able to finish off the match.
“Emily fought so hard,” Newtown said. “I’m so proud of her. She was a constant for us tonight and put the ball away when we needed it. We just kind of ran out of juice at the end.”
The Lady Elks were hampered by a slow start as they dropped the first two sets. Burleson led just once at 1-0 in the second set and had things tied twice in the first two sets.
“We didn’t wake up,” Newton said. “We kind of shutdown and that got us into a slump and we had to fight out of it. Starting slow is something we have struggled with all year. That kind of got the best of us tonight.”
The Lady Elks made things interesting winning the third set behind the play of Rich and the serving of junior setter Mia Smalls. Trailing 6-4, Smalls reeled off six service points, including two aces, to push the Lady Elks to a 10-6 lead.
With the third set tied at 20-20, Rich had three consecutive kills to put Burleson up 23-20. Rich finished off the third set with a kill to the middle of the court to force a fourth game.
In the fourth set, the Lady Elks held leads of 11-8, 15-13 and 17-14 only to see the Lady Pioneers rally each time and eventually win the set and the match.
Boswell will face Amarillo (32-12) in the regional semifinal match Friday in Lubbock at Lubbock Coronado High School.