Johnson volleyball beats Madison to secure a playoff berth

Johnson volleyball coach John Feicht knew defeating Madison a third time wouldn’t be easy, especially with a trip to the playoffs at stake.

The Jaguars needed four sets to dispatch the Mavericks 25-23, 25-16, 19-25, 25-21 on Tuesday at Littleton Gym and secure the final spot in District 28-6A

“It’s always difficult when you see someone three times, and with Madison, they’re a great team,” Feicht said. “We knew they would come out and compete lights out from the first whistle till the end. But we had a couple of game plans heading into this match, and they worked out. We have been working hard. But I’m excited for the girls because it’s been a while since we made playoffs.”

Neither team grabbed momentum in the first set until sophomore middle blocker Ada Awagu smacked down a key kill to put Johnson (18-23, 8-8) up 12-9.

Madison (19-25, 8-8) battled back and got a critical point from senior outside hitter Jayden Jones to cut the lead to 12-10. From there, the two teams traded points — neither gaining a lead larger than three.

Johnson pulled away toward the end of the set and go up 24-21. However, Madison scored three straight points to cut the lead to 24-23. But Johnson senior setter Kendra Grimm squashed the rally, finishing the first set with a kill.

The Jaguars came out firing in the second set to go up 16-10, helped by several kills across the board from a quartet of sophomores — middle blocker Payton Melin and outside hitters Campbell Guess, Ava Castillo and Sophia Arantes. Johnson dominated the set, going on to win 25-16.

Down 2-0 and with their backs against the wall, Jones came up with a key in the third set kill to put Madison up 21-19.

Johnson couldn’t respond and the Mavericks pulled away, winning 25-19.

After two errors by Madison tied the fourth set at 10-10 — the Jaguars strung together a run to pull away and win 25-21.

Awagu led Johnson with 15 kills, and Castillo and Arantes pitched in 12 and 10. Grimm had eight kills, 35 assists and 20 digs. Senior libero Addie Carillo had a team-best 34 digs.

With the win, Johnson will face the District 27-6A winner, New Braunfels, in the first round of the UIL playoffs at a time and place to be determined. The Jaguars are making their first playoff appearance since the 2019-2020 season, which Carillo described as “special.”

“As seniors, we knew this could be our last game,” Carillo said. “So, coming in, we wanted this victory so bad, and we (the seniors) said we wanted to end our time at Johnson on a playoff run and make a deep run. So, to make the playoffs like this, it’s special.”

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