Going into Tuesday’s match at Stratford High School, Clear Creek head volleyball coach Scott Simonds had some concerns about his team being a bit road weary. The Wildcats were still recovering from a weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex that included an appearance in the Duncanville Volleyball Tournament of Champions.
By the end of the night, Simonds was breathing a little easier as his team fought through fatigue and a highly-ranked opponent to come away with a straight-set 3-0 win over the Stratford Spartans.
“We played a bunch of games last weekend and (Stratford) didn’t play a tournament last week,” Simonds said following the win. “So I was a little concerned about fatigue. But we played very well.”
The Wildcats outplayed the No. 3-ranked Class 4A team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason poll in almost every facet of the game.
Led by senior Rachel Hobaugh, Clear Creek served well and stayed in system all match long.
“We served very well and got them out of service receive,” Simonds said, “and I thought we played very good defense, got a lot of digs and got them out of their attack.”
Clear Creek jumped out quickly in the first game behind sophomore Ashley Smith, who picked up three early kills to stake the Wildcats to a 9-4 lead. Smith added three service aces to extend the lead to 13-7.
The Wildcats would then trade points with Stratford and win the opening set, 25-21.
The second set may have been the most crucial for Clear Creek. After the Wildcats jumped to an early 6-2 lead, Stratford found their stride and posted a 12-5 run to take a 14-11 lead midway through the game.
But momentum would shift back to Creek as Hobaugh began to assert herself. With the 5-10 senior in service, the Wildcats reeled off four consecutive points, and continued with eight of the next ten points, to regain a 19-16 lead.
Stratford would fight back and the two teams found themselves tied at 24-24. The teams traded points to 26-26 before Clear Creek finished off the set with the last two points in the 28-26 win.
“They had us at game point and then we had them at game point,” Simonds recalled afterward, “and we ended up making the plays at the end. It was huge.”
“Especially on the road,” said Simonds of the importance of winning the second game. “You give a good team like Stratford some momentum in their house, and you never know. You want to put them away if you get the opportunity and, obviously, go up 2-0.”
Hobaugh continued her strong play into the third set. Helping the Wildcats to a 6-0 lead in the game, Hobaugh collected three service aces. She would add two more aces and a pair of kills in the 25-20 win that sealed the match.
“Rachel, I think, is one of the best,” said the Wildcat coach of Hobaugh, who broke a school record last year with 73 aces. “She is a calming senior influence for what is basically a very young team.”
The win moves Clear Creek’s record to 6-3 as they prepare to play Kingwood at home on Wednesday before playing in the Spring Branch ISD tournament over the weekend. Smith led the team with 13 kills and Hobaugh added nine.
Stratford, playing just their third match of the season, suffered their first defeat. Junior Mackenzie Martin led the Spartans with nine kills.
Stratford’s next action comes Thursday as one of the host schools for the Spring Branch ISD tournament.
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