Moments after a three-game sweep of Bowie on Tuesday, eight Lamar players gathered on one end of court in special T-shirts with Seniors printed on the front. The mood appeared upbeat as the players soaked in the conclusion of their last varsity game on their home floor.
“There were a lot of laughs,” senior outside hitter Kayla Whetstone said. “It felt different, but we tried not to think about it and keep it calm until the end.”
Senior setter Zion Hill conceded that the victorious night of last moments was tinged with bittersweet feelings. “It was kind of sad,” Hill said of the mood before the game. “It was our last time driving here. Everyone was kind of emotional and upset.”
But much like the past two seasons have proved, this group of eight doesn’t stay down for long. “We were like, ‘It’s our last time,’ ” Hill said. “‘Let’s make it fun. Let’s go out with a bang on our home court.’”
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Lamar went out of with a bang all right: a 25-16, 27-25, 25-22 victory against the Lady Vols that solidified the Lady Vikings’ playoff positioning. Lamar finishes its regular season this Tuesday at Martin and awaits a playoff matchup as either the third or fourth seed from District 4-6A.
“I told them today, ‘It’s your last home game,’ ” coach Heather Woodman said. “‘Do what you can to leave the final mark that you want.’ ”
The eight seniors helped Lamar win district and advance to the regional tournament as juniors. This season, the Lady Vikings held their own in a tightly contested district race and helped further solidify the program’s elite status. “It’s been superfun,” senior libero Emily Dondero said. “I’m superthankful for this team.”
Woodman raved about how rare it is for eight players to stick together as a strong group throughout their varsity careers.
“They are one of the best groups to come through here,” Woodman said. “There’s eight of them. That says a lot for this program and what they’ve put into this and what they’ve built as a senior class. Most of the time, it’s a class of two or it’s a class of four. This class of eight stuck together and fought hard to be here.”
Dondero and Whetstone recalled that a few years ago, home games were often sparsely attended. They and their fellow seniors helped turn Lady Vikings volleyball into a must-see event.
“It’s a cool atmosphere to be in,” Dondero said. “Since sophomore year, to see how much it’s grown has been amazing. There used to be games where no one was there, and now it’s, ‘Are you coming tonight? Why aren’t you coming? We’re all going.’ ”
There may not be any games left on their home court, but the Lamar eight isn’t done representing their school. A playoff run awaits. “It’s not over yet,” Whetstone said.
Week 8 kicks off for Lamar as the Vikings travel to Fort Worth Paschal for a 7 p.m. Thursday game. As Lamar has been hanging around fourth place in the District 4-6A standings, the game should be a good opportunity to inch closer to a playoff berth against a Panthers squad that has performed poorly in district.
Also Thursday at 7 p.m., Seguin hosts Burleson at Wilemon Field. The Cougars have played like a playoff-bound team, and the game against Burleson should be a good test.
Bowie faces perhaps its toughest foe of the season when it visits Mansfield in another 7 p.m. Thursday game. The Tigers have paced the district are usually ranked within the top 40 6A teams in the state.
In Friday night action (7:30 p.m.), Arlington hosts Martin at Maverick Stadium for their annual rivalry game, while Sam Houston hosts North Crowley at Wilemon.
With the regular season concluding Tuesday, the Arlington school district looks to be sending Martin, Arlington and Lamar into the postseason. Bi-district play begins Monday and Tuesday, and there are several dangerous team awaiting in the first round.
Arlington schools will face District 3, which includes a red-hot Weatherford program, perennial power Keller and a solid Keller Central squad.
Stephen English: email@example.com, @sbenglish74