It didn’t take long for the Sale Creek Panthers to punch their ticket for next week’s TSSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Murfreesboro.
Actually, it took just over an hour – 65 minutes to be exact – for the Lady Panthers to win their sectional match with the East Robertson Lady Indians and advance to the biggest tournament of the season for the third straight year.
The Lady Panthers improved to 36-6 with the 3-0 sweep, winning easily by scores of 25-6, 25-21 and 25-9.
East Robertson concludes a tough season at 5-16.
It was the final match at Sale Creek’s McEwen Gym for six Lady Panther seniors, including Reagan Ayers, Avery Cox, Sydney Gibson, Jayda Perry, Kristen Sharp and Madysun Steele, but they made the most of the situation as they were in a party mood long before the match began and even more so once it ended.
“This feels really good,” said Gibson after she had recorded 14 kills and two blocks.
“I think we had the right mindset and were able to settle down and play well after that second set. I tried to not think about it being my final match here, but we’re expecting big things next week,” she added.
Steele had 13 kills to go along with eight digs, two blocks and an ace. She just wanted to enjoy the moment on Thursday night.
“I’m excited,” she began.
“We were glad to pull through, but we just had the heart to win tonight. I was a little nervous at the start, but was on my game as I was ready to play. It’s been a great ride here at Sale Creek and I’m trying to not think that my high school volleyball career will be over next week,” she nodded while a multitude of pictures were being taken.
The first set was over in about 20 minutes.
Gibson had one kill and Steele two more as the Lady Panthers scored the first three points.
The Sale Creek lead was 5-1 before East Robertson called its first timeout.
The difference was 13-3 when Kayla Phillips went to the service line and reeled off seven straight points, including two of her three aces for a commanding 20-3 lead. Steele had her only ace a minute later to give Sale Creek the early advantage.
The Lady Indians had their best effort in the second set, but the Lady Panthers helped out by taking their foot off the throttle.
East Robertson had its biggest lead at 12-8 following a kill from Kate Cornett, but Gibson had consecutive kills to lead Sale Creek’s comeback.
A kill from Steele knotted the score at 15-15 before an East Robertson hitting error gave the Lady Panthers the lead at 16-15.
The score was tied five more times before a Gibson kill gave Sale Creek the lead for the last time at 22-21. An ace from Lillie Morgan was the winning point shortly afterward.
The short burst of momemtum the Lady Indians created in that second set didn’t last long as a kill from Gibson gave Sale Creek the lead at 1-0.
Perry then recorded 10 straight service points, including all three of her aces, as the lead quickly swelled to 11-0. Ashlyn Wright had back-to-back kills for the Lady Indians as they got within eight points at 11-3, but it never got any closer as Sale Creek pressed on toward the victory to end a good night’s work.
Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill was overall pleased with the way her team performed. She just shook her head when asked about that second set.
“I’m really happy for our seniors as they’ve worked really hard to get to where we are right now. I feel like we played well for the most part and have our sights set on something big next week. Our passers were focused and our hitters were aggressive,” she began.
“I don’t know what to say about that second set other than we have a phobia about second sets. We got relaxed and lost some focus. This is a blue-collar team in that we have to dig in and work hard to be successful. But I’m happy with the effort and the overall team spirit.
“This is a win for everyone in the Sale Creek community,” she concluded.
While Gibson and Steele had 14 and 13 kills, respectively for the winners, Perry finished with 33 assists. Cox had 13 digs while Perry and Steele both had eight digs as well. Reagan Ayers had three blocks.
Pairings for the state tournament will be announced in the next day or so, but the Sale Creek Lady Panthers can make their reservation for the third straight year.
SALE CREEK STATS:
Reagan Ayers – 6 kills, 3 blocks
Avery Cox – 13 digs
Sydney Gibson – 14 kills, 2 blocks
Lillie Morgan – 4 kills, 3 digs, 4 aces
Jayda Perry – 33 assists, 2 kills, 8 digs, 3 aces
Kristen Sharp – 1 dig
Sophia Dozier – 2 digs
Kayla Phillips – 1 dig, 3 aces
Madysun Steele – 13 kills, 8 digs, 1 ace, 2 blocks.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)