ROYSE CITY — The Harmony Lady Eagles exceeded expectations during a year nobody knew what to expect. And then they were a victory from making it to state.
“In a crazy 2020 season, these girls found a way to make it this far,” Harmony head coach Dena Martin said. “Sheer willpower got us here.”
After battling through the bracket and finishing three rounds better than last season, Harmony saw its run come to an end when Gunter defeated the Lady Eagles, 25-11, 25-19, 25-21, in the Class 3A Region II final.
Gunter (29-3) advances to the state semifinals for the first time and will face either Bushland or Holliday for a spot in the championship match. East Bernard and Goliad will square off in the other semifinal.
It was the fourth time in five playoff matches that Gunter, which had made the region final three straight seasons, won in a sweep.
Harmony (22-4), which had a 14-match winning streak snapped, was playing in the region final for the first time since 2007 — also the last time the program reached the final four.
The Lady Eagles went 24-12 in 2019 and lost in the second round but came back with six seniors — McKinzee Settles, Ali Rhame, Kati Burkham, Delaynie Nash, Analese Cano and Madi Rhame — to put together the program’s best season in 13 years.
“They were so determined,” Martin said. “We had to go to battle every single time.”
Harmony played much better after Gunter had an 8-1 start to a 15-2 run in Game 1 that turned a close contest into a runaway. The Lady Eagles battled back from an early deficit and held a 6-4 lead. Then the Lady Tigers went on their surge and led 12-7 when Martin called a timeout.
Harmony couldn’t halt the momentum and the last of consecutive kills by Shae Pruiett gave Gunter a 19-8 advantage and the Lady Tigers were well on their way to the 1-0 lead.
In Game 2, the Lady Eagles only led for a point at 4-3 but stayed right with Gunter to give themselves a chance near the end to tie the match. Settles and Jenci Seahorn did most of the damage at the net. A Seahhorn kill got the margin down to one at 11-10 before Gunter widened the gap out to 18-13.
Harmony responded with three straight points and when Burkham overpowered a block attempt the Lady Eagles were down 21-19. But Rayanna Mauldin had three straight kills and Miranda Putnicki finished off the frame by slamming home a 50-50 ball.
Gunter had a 14-10 lead in Game 3 when Harmony made its move. Burkham and Settles provided the three straight points to tie it at 15 and Seahorn landed an ace to put the Lady Eagles in front.
The lead was short-lived as the Lady Tigers answered with a 5-1 burst. Harmony was down 20-19 after a Gunter error and 22-20 on a kill by Lillie Jones but the Lady Tigers were able to close out the sweep and advance.
“Two and three were better depictions of how we’ve played this year,” Martin said. “We make mistakes in key points in the match and that cost us.”
Settles finished with 12 digs, 11 blocks and five kills. Burnham had three kills and two digs, Nash nine assists and two digs, Seahorn 12 digs, 10 kills and five blocks, Trimble nine assists, five digs and two blocks and Jones two kills.