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Lady Hawks beat Alvarado for area title,
end season with loss to Springtown in quarters

by Kevin Hamilton
Iowa Park’s Lady Hawk volleyball team rallied from one game down Saturday to defeat Alvarado in four games to capture the Region 1-3A Area title, then saw their hugely successful season come to an abrupt end Tuesday in Bowie as they lost in three to Springtown in the regional quarterfinals.

It was the first season since 2006 that a Lady Hawk squad had advanced this deep in the playoffs. Coach Brenda Hodges’ girls end the season with a 29-7 record and three gold balls (district, bi-district and area).

Springtown improved to 32-8, and the Lady Porcupines advance to the regional tournament in Snyder, facing Big Spring in the semifinals at 3 p.m. tomorrow. In the other semifinal match, Liberty Hill faces Abilene Wylie (1 p.m.).

Enroute to the quarterfinals, Springtown had defeated Hirschi and Glen Rose.
Iowa Park had defeated Mineral Wells and Alvarado.

“I thought we had just a great season,” Hodges said. “We accomplished the goals that we set in the beginning. At first, we just wanted to be in the playoffs. Then we realized that was too minor a goal. So we said we wanted to be district champs, then undefeated district champs, and to make a run in the playoffs.
And that’s what we did.

“They (the Lady Hawks) were upset, but how many other teams can say you lost only seven games in a year,” she continued. “We didn’t win seven games last year, total, I don’t think. It was quite a turnaround. So all their hard work and dedication paid off.”

After two years of struggling with an abundance of underclassmen, this year’s Lady Hawk squad was a mixture of experienced juniors and seniors.

“Last year, we got into the playoffs. And though it was shortlived, the girls got a taste of it,” Hodges noted. “I think one of the reasons it was kind of bittersweet last night (in Bowie) was because the community got involved. There were more people in that gym than we’ve had at any game.

“The girls were disappointed because they felt they disappointed the crowd.”

Prior to Tuesday’s playoff match, the Lady Hawks were treated to a full escort through Iowa Park by local enforcement. Cars and people were lined along West Highway, including a large group of kids in front of Itty Bitty Daycare holding up signs they had made supporting the team.

Saturday in Chico in front of a large crowd, the Lady Hawks were rattled by the Lady Indians in the first game 13-25, but then rallied in three straight (25-18, 25-14, 25-22) to capture the 1-3A Area championship.

“That brought back old memories,” Hodges said of the first game. “The deal was, we got over that. I pulled them out one by one and asked them if that is how they wanted this to end. Then we go back out there in the second game, and we were fresh and ready to play.

“That showed a lot of character, and said a lot about how far they have come,” she added.

Iowa Park passed 2.9 (of 4) against Alvarado, a 45-percent kill percentage with 51 kills, 17 blocks, 66 digs, and 50 assists. “We served well in that match too,” Hodges said.

Facing a seasoned Lady Porcupine squad Tuesday in Bowie, the Lady Hawks battled in each game, but fell in three 25-19, 25-14, 25-23.

“We didn’t just hunker down, we played ... they (Springtown) were just good,” Hodges said.

She noted the two teams traded points in the first game to a 15-15 tie before the Lady Porcupines capitalized on a few Lady Hawk mistakes.

“Even in the second game, when it was 14-25, it didn’t seem like we just shut down,” said Hodges. “They got even hotter, and we just didn’t block. That was the breaker of that whole match ... we just didn’t block.”

The third game was much closer, with Iowa Park trailing by only one, 24-23, before Springtown managed the final kill.

Iowa Park passed 1.9 (of 4). “It was one of our worst passing games,” she noted. “Alvarado had one or two that could serve well. Springtown had three or four.”

The Lady Hawks had 34 kills (to 40 kills for Springtown), a 40-percent kill percentage, 52 digs and 34 assists.

As for her message to the underclassmen, including four starters and two junior varsity players that were moved up for the playoffs (Baleigh Mahler and Megan Ashlock), Hodges said, “We have a good core, but some key stuff we need to fill, some big shoes to fill. We’ve got to fill a middle hitter and a setter. It is time to step it up and see who wants those.”