Categorized | Sports

ECS survives TRA’s swarm in thriller

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Lady Rebel Olivia Smith glades in for a kill shot against ECS.

ECS Lady Eagles Head Coach Tommy Danner was preparing his team to be stung taking the trip to North Shelby County.

Last Thursday the Lady Eagles took the court in the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Gymnasium surrounding by bleachers buzzing with Lady Rebels fans. The reason for the excitement on the TRA campus, the winner of the ECS/TRA would be in position for first place in the division and earn a bye in the upcoming Regional Tournament.

“They had a great environment tonight, great support,” Danner said. “I knew we were going to walk into a hornet’s nest over here. Tipton-Rosemark has shown itself to be a very competitive team throughout the season.

“A lot of returning players from last year for them, I told our players we’re going to have to beat them because they’re not going to give it to us,” he added. “My hats off to them, they did a great job.”

After ECS took the first two sets 25-16 and 25-19, the Lady Rebels rallied back to take the third and fourth sets 25-22 and 25-17.

The Lady Eagles and Lady Rebels went to a fifth and final set to settle the match. After eight ties, ECS used a kill from sophomore outside hitter Taylor Anderton to prevail 15-13 and take the match 3 sets to 2.

“For our team, overall it really was a team effort,” Danner said. “Everybody at certain times had to make plays at any given time. They all contributed. I don’t know if really any player stood out.”

In the first two sets Lady Eagles like Allie Whited, Tara Norman, Taylor Pegg, Olivia Allen, Brandi Armfield and Anderton made plays to win.

With the score tied at 15-15 in the first set, ECS outscored TRA 9-0 to build a sizeable advantage. A block at the net by Pegg made the score 18-15. Then spikes from Armfield and Allen made the tally 24-15.

TRA senior Mady Kate Gantt stopped the bleeding with a kill. But Pegg’s tip end the opening set at 25-16.

The second set started close with Pegg breaking a 9-9 tie with a kill. Lady Rebel Asante Lopez tied the set at 10-10 with an ace. TRA took an 11-10 lead. The Lady Rebels stayed ahead most of the set leading 18-17.

But ECS outscored Millington 8-1 down the stretch to take a 2-0 overall lead.

“We’ve been a mentally strong team for the most part all year,” TRA Head Coach Wendy Porter said. “We’ve been able to come out of deficits and push back. Usually not a 2-0 deficit, but in the end we made more mistakes than they did.”

TRA’s miscues were at a minimum in the third and fourth sets. Behind the serving of Lopez the Lady Rebels jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the third set. The play at the net of Lady Rebel Olivia Smith kept ECS neutralized as well.

ECS trailed most of the set but edged back to within 21-17. Then TRA’s Bethany Berger seized the momentum with a spike making the score 22-17. Later in the set the Lady Eagles hit the ball out and TRA had a 25-22 win.

The fourth set belonged to MKG. Gantt was honored earlier for Senior Night.

With most of the spectators wearing her favorite color of pink, Gantt gave them a reason to shout with spikes and volleys scoring several points in the fourth set.

Gantt took serve in the set and scored with two aces to make the tally 22-16. Armfield broke the serve with a spike. Her point was the last for the Lady Eagles in the set.

TRA scored the final three points with Jackie Kuykendall ending the set with an ace. Now the overall match was tied at 2-2.

“Our serves were sound those two games,” Porter noted. “We were hitting well. Our passes were really great. We were covering the court a lot better.”

Both teams covered the court well in the fifth and decisive set. ECS fell behind early but defensive specialist Addi Maxwell served up an ace to tie the game at 4-4. That was the first of eight deadlocks.

Anderton was responsible for one of those ties. Gantt evened up the score at 10-10. The last tie was at 13-13.

Then ECS broke the deadlock to take a 14-13 advantage. To end the thriller in the TRA Gym, Anderton leaped up and slammed down a spike to the court

The victory kept the Lady Eagles in position to earn a first-place tie for the regular season title in the league only losing to Harding Academy.  ECS had one more regular-season division game scheduled against SBEC.

“It helps us get ready for the Regional Tournament coming up ahead because the top four or five teams are so close in talent,” Danner said. “It doesn’t’ take much to turn the favor one way or another.”

The Lady Eagles left TRA with a 10-1 league record. The Lady Rebels entered the night 10-1 in league only losing to St. George’s.

After the ECS game, the Lady Rebels finished 10-2 in the division. Porter said the competitive showing against the Lady Eagles shows her team has what it takes to be No. 1.

“I think we can make a good run,” she concluded. “We’re going to have to step it up a little bit just on those little things like staying out of the net, covering the corners we should be covering. ECS did a fantastic job. They just covered every square inch of that court. We didn’t do that the whole time.”

TRA will play in the first round of the Regional Tournament at home Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. against Bishop Byrne. The second round game is scheduled for Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. against either SBEC or Fayette Academy.

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