After a 25-20, 23-25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-12 loss to Snook late in District 25-2A play, Burton head coach Jessica Parish said she saw a change in her team.
The Lady Panthers have hardly lost a set since, winning eight straight while marching to the Class 2A state tournament in the first year of Parish's tenure. Burton (31-11) will face Iola (38-2) in its second state tournament appearance at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals in Garland.
Burton's current winning streak isn't its longest this season. The Lady Panthers had won 14 straight before their loss to Snook.
"I knew that we had a chance, but I never thought we'd be heading to the state tournament right now," Parish said. "We were playing some really good volleyball at the beginning of the year, but I never thought that it would come down to this."
Iola is a familiar opponent. The Lady Panthers and Lady Bulldogs faced off in August with Iola winning 25-13, 25-15, 12-25, 25-16.
"We've played them before, and we took a game from them," Parish said. "If we play our game and we play how we need to and we take care of business, it's going to be anybody's game."
Parish is familiar with Iola's attack and said Burton's defense, starting with middle blockers Alex Countouriotis and Emily Harmel as well as libero Mackenzie Wilke, has to be strong to handle it.
"My back row's got to be able to pick up, too," Parish said. "[Wilke] has got to be on her game. If they continue to play like they did on Saturday, we have a really good chance."
Burton swept Snook 25-15, 25-18, 25-18 on Saturday in the 2A Region IV championship in Brenham.
Parish said she knows her team is an underdog against back-to-back state champion Iola but that the Lady Panthers won't be intimidated.
"We know who their power hitters are," Parish said. "If we go up there and our blockers put a hand on their hits, we know they can be stopped."
Burton focused on conditioning during practice in preparation for tough five-set matches, and Parish said the team has been enthusiastic about handling the tough workouts.
With four sophomores, the Panthers are relatively young, and Parish doesn't think the magnitude of the state tournament has set in quite yet.
"I think when we get to the stadium tomorrow, it will fully sink in," she said.
Despite the unknown, she said her team has a clear goal.
"They're ready to go," she said. "They're ready to play on Thursday. They don't want their season to end [Wednesday]."
The 2A title match is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.