BLANCHARD — Down two sets to one in the Class 3A volleyball title match on Saturday afternoon, Community Christian School’s young squad — with nary a senior — stayed calm. The Royals knew what they needed to do — keep setting up freshman star Landry Braziel.
That proved to be an outstanding strategy. Braziel had 13 of her 35 kills in the final two sets as the top-ranked Royals rallied for a 3-2 win over No. 2 Heritage Hall at Blanchard High School. CCS prevailed 17-25, 25-19, 16-25, 25-17, 15-6 for its third state title, along with those won in 2015 and 2016.
CCS (29-8) also picked up 10 kills from freshman Victoria Gray and six kills and nine blocks from Channing Apel, one of only two juniors on the roster.
“We came in knowing this was going to happen,” Apel said of winning the title. “We felt the chemistry and we came together so well.” Added Braziel: “It was an automatic thing for this team.”
Heritage Hall (19-13) had its own star turn from senior Daphne Matthews, who had 22 kills. At times, the match had an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do better feel as Matthews and Braziel consistently slammed home winners.
Matthews had five kills late in the first set to propel the Chargers to a 25-17 win and Heritage Hall led the second set as late as 14-13. With the set tied 19-19, though, CCS seized control, scoring the next six points to even the match, then the first five points of the third set.
Heritage Hall eventually rallied to take that set 25-16, but after that, the Royals firmly were in command. CCS won the fourth set — never trailing — despite giving up seven points on service errors. The Royals closed the set with a kill by Apel, an ace by Braziel and a kill by Gray.
The fifth set was all CCS. After falling behind 1-0, the Royals scored the next seven points — three on kills by Braziel, two on kills by Apel and another on an ace by sophomore Ashlyn Williams. Heritage Hall came no closer than five points the rest of the way, with the Royals’ title-clinching point appropriately coming on Braziel’s final kill.
After the third set, CCS coach Melody Steelman said she “was waiting to see the fight that they had in them. I know it’s going to show up. I was just waiting for it. They like to keep it interesting. I think they knew this was their last match of the season and they wanted to take it for every step they could.
“They brought it in the fifth set and I’m like, ‘Why did you save that for the last set?’ But when they finish, they finish strong, and that’s what that was.”
When she heard after the match how many kills she had, Braziel seemed shocked, but Apel and Steelman didn’t.
“We (set her up) for a reason, obviously,” Apel said. “It works. It works! We’re kind of a dynamic duo.”
With its young roster, CCS would seem set up for a long run of titles and Steelman, Apel and Braziel didn’t shy away from that sort of talk, all simultaneously answering “yes” to the dynasty question.
In their semifinal match on Saturday morning, the Royals swept Oklahoma Christian School 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 27-25). Braziel had 20 kills in that match, but the Royals needed four set points to close out the second set and three more in the third set (while also overcoming a set point).
Braziel wasn’t the only star against the Saints. Apel had 11 kills and freshman Stella Gorton added eight kills and four aces. Sophomore Caroline Bell added four aces.