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11/12/2004  Facing the best  Volleyball

The Victoria Advocate -
Facing the best
Advocate Sports Writer
Friday, November 12, 2004

SCHULENBURG - As the saying goes, "to be the best, you have to beat the best."

That is exactly what the Schulenburg Lady Horns will have to do if they want to continue their playoff run to the UIL state volleyball tournament.

The Lady Horns will meet top-ranked Poth today in a 1 p.m. Region IV-2A semifinal at Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio. The winner will advance to Saturday's 11 a.m. regional championship game against the Refugio-Stockdale winner.

The regional winner advances to the state tournament to be held Nov. 18-20 at Strahan Coliseum on the campus of Texas State University-San Marcos.

Schulenburg enters today's match on a nine-match winning streak that has allowed the Lady Horns to compile a 26-10 season record.

Poth, last year's state runner-up, brings a 34-5 record into the contest after defeating last year's state champion Brazos Consolidated in a five-game match in the regional quarterfinals.

Schulenburg coach Melissa Zapalac knows her senior-ladden squad has a big challenge awaiting them but plans to stay focused on what has gotten the team to the regional tournament.

"It's going to be a real fight," said Zapalac, who has compiled an 87-49 record in four years at Schulenburg.

"Our game plan is to serve tough, pass the ball and be aggressive at the net. The things we have lived by all year."

The Lady Horns returned most of the core players from last year's 17-15 squad and Zapalac hopes to use that experience against Poth.

Zapalac's squad is comprised of eight seniors, two juniors and a sophomore and they have all stepped up big for the Lady Horns this season.

"I think the biggest key for us is that we have been playing as a team," Zapalac said. "And they're having fun and that's great to see."

The Lady Horns are led at the net by sophomore outside hitter Brianna Mendel, senior outside hitter Beth Oeding and in the middle by junior blocker Brittany McNeal.

Mendel has compiled 267 kills, 313 digs and 22 blocks this season, while Oeding has chipped in with 256 kills, 414 digs and 34 blocks, while McNeal has 184 kills and 104 blocks.

Supplying adequate backup at the net are seniors Sarah Kalina and Teressa Talbot. Kalina has 95 kills and 71 blocks, while Talbot has 65 kills and 34 blocks.

Senior defensive specialist Katie Schrader has 274 digs, while senior setters Amy Henneke and Brandy Vela have combined for 515 assists.

"We got quite a few veteran leaders and they have become a very cohesive unit," Zapalac pointed out.

Now Zapalac hopes to use that cohesiveness to dispatch a very talented Poth squad.

Poth is led by sophomore Aimee Huffman, who was an all-stater last season as a freshman.

After a first-round bye, the District 28-2A champions dispatched East Bernard 25-18, 25-12, 25-13 in the area playoffs, before avenging last year's state final loss to Brazos Consolidated in the regional quarterfinals.

"They are pretty disciplined and are a fairly balanced team from what I have seen and heard," Zapalac said.