VOLLEYBALL: The Woodlands takes third at John Turner Classic

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PEARLAND - The Woodlands had a unique opportunity to face off with one of the top teams in the state in just its ninth

PEARLAND - The Woodlands had a unique opportunity to face off with one of the top teams in the state in just its ninth match of the season on Saturday at the Adidas John Turner Classic.

In the semifinal match of the Gold Bracket, the Lady Highlanders went toe to toe with defending state champion Hebron for three sets.

And though the Hawks finished on top, winning 25-22, 18-25, 28-26, the Lady Highlanders saw a glimpse of what their team is capable of.

"It is a good start, and you hope we can keep growing from here," The Woodlands coach Terri Wade said. "I hope this isn't the limit of our potential, and I don't think that it is. I can see where we've made changes - we just need to become more consistent with them. I expect a lot - starting from here, but being able to grow from here, too."

Senior middle blocker AJ Koele, senior setter Sophie Walls and junior libero Georgia Murphy were each named to the all-tournament team.

"They are the leaders of the team in their respective positions," Wade said. "[This weekend] just shows that they are going to take control of the team."

Hebron was ranked No. 1 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason rankings, while The Woodlands was tabbed as the No. 8 team in Class 6A.

In the third set of the semifinal match, The Woodlands trailed Hebron 18-10 before going on a 14-4 run. But with defeat only one point away, Hebron dug in its heels and eventually took the set, 28-26.

Courtney Heiser and Koele each tallied 13 kills in the loss. Heiser also added 16 digs for a double-double. Murphy had a team-high 23 digs, while Skylar Scott had 19. Sophie Walls had a team-high 29 assists to go with two blocks.

After losing to Hebron, The Woodlands swept Plano East (25-18, 25-20) in the third-place match. Earlier in the day, The Woodlands defeated Prosper (19-25, 25-19, 25-20) to earn the matchup with Hebron.

In the win over Prosper, Murphy had a team-high 21 digs, while Walls had 29 assists, six digs, three blocks and four aces. Heiser led the team with 11 kills and eight digs, while Koele also had 11 kills to go with five blocks and six digs.

In The Woodlands' sweep over Plano East, Heiser led the way with eight kills and eight digs. Walls tallied 18 assists, five digs and three aces. Koele had six kills and a block, and Alex Tyler and Amanda Oppenheimer each registered three blocks.

Wade was pleased with how her team performed offensively over the weekend, but she hopes they can improve on the defensive end moving forward.

"I think mostly we have a great offense - and defense has been good, too," Wade said. "But defensively we have to work on the front row on being consistent blockers."

The Woodlands will return to the court Tuesday when it travels to Katy Seven Lakes. The Lady Highlanders will then host Willis next Friday.

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Article VOLLEYBALL: The Woodlands takes third at John Turner Classic compiled by www.chron.com

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