Hillcrest Rallies to Win Playoff Opener

Hillcrest’s Suzy Njoku provided several clutch kills on Tuesday during a four-set playoff win over Sunset. (Photo: Rob Graham)

Hillcrest’s volleyball resurgence has included back-to-back District 11-5A titles and, after Tuesday, consecutive bi-district playoff victories.

Now, the Lady Panthers hope they can stop repeating their accomplishments and take the next step by scoring a postseason win against a team from outside of Dallas ISD.

Hillcrest edged a scrappy Sunset squad in four sets, 25-22, 27-25, 23-25, 27-25, on Tuesday at Cobb Field House to advance into a rematch against Mansfield Lake Ridge on Thursday at Irving MacArthur. Lake Ridge swept the Lady Panthers in the same round last season, and will be heavily favored again.

“We want to make sure we give them a good game,” said Hillcrest libero Kelsey Kennedy. “We want to make them work for it.”

Kennedy is part of a deep senior class for the Lady Panthers (20-8) that has taken tremendous strides since arriving on campus four years ago. Head coach Diana Davis said the leadership of that group has been vital in establishing a foundation for the future.

“Our goal this year was to win district again,” Davis said. “We have a lot of competition. Dallas has come a long way with their talent in volleyball. Give us another couple of years, and we can compete against these [suburban] teams. We have the talent, and now we’re developing it.”

Davis points to Tuesday’s match as an example. The Lady Bison (6-14) lacked size and experience compared to Hillcrest, yet took a lead in each set. However, the Lady Panthers prevailed in critical points thanks to the serving of Bawi Par and the net play of Suzy Njoku.

Par ended the first set with consecutive aces. In the second set, Njoku’s kills allowed the Lady Panthers to sustain a late surge.

Sunset began the third stanza with an 11-3 advantage and withstood a Hillcrest comeback. But the Lady Panthers again took control down the stretch in the fourth set to claim the match.

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