Bushland wins 3rd state volleyball title in last 4 years

For the third year in a row, Bushland and Gunter faced off in the finals of the UIL 3A championship.

Now, Bushland has the upper hand in terms of victories.

Bushland beat Gunter, 25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-234 in the first of four championship games on Saturday at the Curtis Culwell Center.

Last year, Gunter won in three sets, while the 2021 title went to Bushland in four sets.

The championship is the seventh overall for the west Texas school and the third in three years with 3A titles in 2021 and 2020.

“When you are from the 806, it is always expected to be here,” said Bushland coach Jason Culpepper. “It is something we take on as a volleyball community; Amarillo, Bushland, Canyon and the surrounding areas. We’re excited to come here and play volleyball. We think about what’s next, how we will make it happen and we will work our hardest.”

The Falcons (42-6) pulled away late to win the first set, breaking a 21-all tie. Jayce Ornelas broke the tie with a kill, followed by kills from Hanna Samford and Amber Hatfield, which ended the set.

Gunter (34-12) took an early lead, 8-7, on a kill by Chloe Johnson in the second set. The set was tied 10 other times after that tie-breaking kill.

With the score tied at 22, an error by Gunter, followed by kills by Ava Permenter and Abby Howell ended the set in favor of Bushland.

Gunter stayed alive with a win in the third set. Tied at 12, the Tigers started to pull away after a kill by Johnson. They never trailed after that, though the Falcons pulled within once on two occasions.

Gunter held a six-point lead, 19-13, but Bushland rallied back to forge a tie at 21.

Then, it was back-and-forth from there until Bushland scored the final three points. Lilyann Shannon and Ornelas had kills during that stretch.

Shannon finished with 12 kills and two blocks, while Howell also had two blocks to share for the team lead.

Johnson had a game-high 21 kills while adding 12 digs and 3 blocks for Gunter. Madison Smith had 16 kills and four blocks, while Makena Fady also reached double-digits with 10 kills.

Brelee Mauldin dished out 43 assists for the Tigers.

Bushland finished the year with 18 straight wins — 16 of them sweeps.

“It’s different than last year for both teams,” Culpepper said. “There is totally different teams, different personalities. You can throw out the last year and the year before besides the rivalry. Gunter will always be good, but each year is different.”

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