Volleyball season ends with regional semifinal loss to Eaton


Arisha Hirji

Middle hitter Lia Okammor sets the ball during a home game against Allen High School on Sept. 3. This season, Okammor had 63 kills and 100% serve percentage.

Following a three-match win streak, the volleyball team lost its regional semifinal playoff game against Eaton on Nov. 12. The team completed its 2021-22 season ranked 19th in the Texas 6A Conference and 28th in the state of Texas. 

“Our [challenges this season] were more mental and emotional,” head coach Karin Keeney said. “We were all excited to get back to ‘normal,’ but I didn’t realize that mental health would be [such a] struggle. We weren’t able to coach them as hard as we have in years past, because they were fragile in the beginning.”

The team ended its district season in a three-way tie for fourth place with Coppell and Plano High School. Since the top four district teams advance to playoffs, Hebron had to face the two teams in a “play-in” tournament on Oct. 28 and 29. The Hawks beat Plano 3-1 and Coppell 3-0, securing their fourth place district spot and playoff advancement. 

“Not even three weeks ago, the whole team [was certain] we weren’t making playoffs,” defensive specialist Emily Pham said. “At that point, we had a three-game losing streak in district [and thought] there was nothing we could really do. We [later] found out that we tied for fourth, did our play-in games and made it four rounds into playoffs. It just showed everyone that anything is possible.”

Prior to the regional semifinals, the Hawks played Eaton during the Marcus Showcase Tournament on Aug. 14, where Eaton won with a score of 3-2. With the loss at regional semifinals, Hebron’s record against Eaton was 0-2 for the season.

“To me, [the team’s greatest struggle] was this fear of playing perfect,” Keeney said. “During the district season, you could see they had talent [and] ability, but they could never put it together. [It seemed like] they were terrified [of not] being good enough. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, for the first time, I’m going to have a very talented, [yet] underachieving team.’”

The last time the team advanced to playoffs was in 2019, where their season ended with a loss against Denton Guyer. This season, the Hawks played Denton Guyer three times, beating the Wildcats on Aug. 13, Sept. 17 and Nov. 2. Guyer was the first team Hebron played in this year’s playoff bracket. 

“Our first round of playoffs was [the] most exciting game [of the season],” Pham said. “We went in [knowing that] Guyer is [a] good [team]. Every single set was within two points, but that was by far the hardest [game.] We had to dig down deep to find the drive and motivation to pull out the game and actually win.” 

This season’s overall game record for the Hawks was 27-19, with the longest winning streak being five games. 

“Whenever we had a winning streak, we definitely encouraged each other more on and off the court,” outside hitter Sophie Hoke said. “Your team is more of a family than just a team. It wasn’t just about playing together and practicing together, it was more about celebrating everything, big and small wins, whether it was volleyball related or not.” 

Despite having to adjust her coaching style throughout the season, Keeney said she is still proud of the team and how the season ended. 

“[This season] was probably one of the hardest years that I’ve coached in quite a while,” Keeney said. “The kids were amazing. We are so grateful to be back, and thank God for these kids. This is a special group, and everybody showed such amazing support to our program. We just appreciate being Hawks — it’s always a good day to be a Hawk.”