Categorized | Sports

Lady Cougars continue District 13-3A streak

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Lady Cougar Kelsey “Special K” Hale skies in for a spike against Brighton.

It appears as September wraps up the Munford Lady Cougars are going through the motions.

Meanwhile their Tipton County rivals the Brighton Lady Cardinals were riding a wave of success coming into the Sept. 25 matchup in the Munford Gymnasium. The Lady Cardinals were coming off a weekend of going undefeated en route to the Dyersburg Tournament benefiting cancer research.

Munford appeared energized for the District 13-3A contest taking the first set 25-16 against Brighton. But then the Lady Cougars hit peaks and valleys before winning in four sets 25-16, 23-25, 25-19 and 25-16.

The win over Brighton locked up another district regular season title for Munford keeping Head Coach Nina Makris unbeaten in league play during her four-year tenure. Makris said she is proud of her girls but wishes the intensity level would pick up.

“It’s like they play only as good as they have to,” she said. “Unfortunately, they’re alright with just winning. As for back in the day when I played, we tried not to let the other people score any points. They don’t have that. They’re OK as long as they win. As long as they’re still first place in the district.

“We haven’t lost,” Makris continued. “But the problem is you have games like Bartlett when you don’t win that third game that you feel like you should have. And we can’t stop that. We have to figure out a way to have that killer instinct no matter who we’re playing district, Region, whatever.”

The previous week Munford traveled to Bartlett and took the first two sets from the Lady Panthers. Then the District 14-3A front-runners won three sets in a row to take the match.

Looking to rebound, the Lady Cougars were focused on Brighton and earning the No. 1 seed in the upcoming district tournament.

Up one set, Munford found itself in a back and forth second set. Lady Cougar Sami Jo Schulz smacked down a spike that made the score 11-9. Brighton regained the lead before Munford sophomore Cecily Gable tied the set at 11-11 with a kill.

The Lady Cougars build their advantage to 14-12 with a Lauren Zvolanek spike. Then the Lady Cardinals rolled off three straight points to take the lead at 15-14. Charlie Hansen’s ace did the trick.

Both teams traded the lead until Munford jumped ahead 21-19. The Lady Cougars even lead as late as 23-22 after a Gable kill.

Then Brighton’s Hailey Shepard tied the game at 23-23 with a spike. Then with two Munford miscues the Lady Cardinals had the set.

With the match tied 1-1, Munford jumped out quickly in the third set leading 8-1. Shepard stopped the Lady Cougar momentum with a kill. That play lead to Brighton outscoring Munford 8-3 to make the score 11-9. Munford seemed to wake up and put some distance between itself and the Lady Cardinals to lead 17-10. But Brighton had one more rally in it with Hansen serving up an ace and Shepard scoring on a serve that made the tally 20-18 in favor of Munford.

Schulz closed seizing the set for Munford with two spikes down the stretch for the Lady Cougars to take the set 25-19.

In the fourth set Munford used solid play from Gable and Kelsey Hale to overcome the threats from Shepard and her Lady Cardinal teammate Ali Christmas. The Lady Cougars 25-16 third set victory ensured the regular season district championship for the team.

But the Lady Cardinals left the Munford Gymnasium building on their positive momentum. Brighton Head Coach Cheryl Jacobs said players like Christmas and Shepard continued their hot play. And she said the leadership of senior Lulu Smith is another key to the success lately.

“They were outstanding,” she said. “We came out of the pool undefeated. Then we beat Dyer County and Madison in the championship bracket.

“It improved our net game,” Jacobs noted. “We’re getting really strong at the net with the block and the hits. We’re working on the back row. And it just helps with the motivation, the ‘I can do.’ It gets you pumped up and fired up at a time when you’re getting ready to play a Dyer County and Munford and play everybody all over again.”

Jacobs said the tournament proved to her players they can win in that setting. The veteran coach said the four-set defeat to Lady Cougars should also enlighten her team.

“That says ‘I can do it,’” she concluded. “It says we can be competitive with them and that we can beat them. It should take you no where but up to the next level. It makes for an exciting tournament in two weeks.”

Makris said she hopes her team will be excited for the upcoming tournament.

“It’s going to be hard to just turn it on or turn it off,” she acknowledged. “I do hope we figure it out before we see Bartlett again. Last year they did beat us in the Region. We felt like we should have beat them in three at their place this year.”

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