Categorized | Sports

Early end for Lady Trojans in districts

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Lady Trojan senior Elizabeth Woodard goes for a tip against Arlington during the District 14-3A Tournament in Bartlett.

BARTLETT — Two upstart teams entered the Bartlett Gymnasium last Wednesday taking different paths to the District 14-3A Volleyball Tournament.

The Millington Lady Trojans moved up the district rankings led by experienced seniors who were tired of coming up short.

Their challengers in the semifinal round, the Arlington Lady Tigers, graduated seven seniors from last year’s team and were under a new coaching staff.

First-year Arlington Head Coach Rebekah Sanders had her team up for the challenge advancing 19-25, 25-22, 25-17 and 25-10 over Millington.

“We’re very excited to have survived,” Sanders said. “We’ve been working on mental toughness all year. They showed great strides today. I think some came in not really fully mentally prepared. But somewhere between the first and second game they turned it up.”

The first set belonged to the lady Trojans winning 25-19. Part of that Millington senior group, Tierra Ford sparked her team win an ace to lead 7-4.

Millington trailed 10-9 later in the opening set when senior Elizabeth Woodard scored on a tip. Then Woodard’s block gave the lady Trojans an 11-10 advantage.

Then scores from Ford, Woodard and fellow senior Lindsey Sailors helped the Lady Trojans pull away to win by six points.

The second set looked like it belong to Millington with the Lady Trojans ahead 13-6. Ford and Woodard took turns racking up points to build the lead.

Then Arlington’s Natalie De Gruy gained control of the serve. The junior got comfortable behind the line helping her team go on an 11-0 run to take a 17-13 lead.

“She’s a rock,” Sanders said. “She’s a solid player. She’s got a lot of skills and I think she has a lot of heart. That makes her a very valuable player.”

During that stretch De Gruy’s teammates Shelby Kee and Antonia Bufalino scored on spikes.

Millington tried to rally in the second set behind a kill and tip from Ford. Her teammate Jaymie Chism scored on an ace that made the tally 21-20 in favor of Arlington.

But the Lady Tigers outscored Millington 4-2 down the stretch to even up the overall match at one set a piece.

In the third set the Lady Tigers capitalized on Millington errors to build a 19-11 advantage.

“I know that they’re very hard on themselves,” Millington Head Coach Lisa Drumm said. “When they start making mistakes, they get down. They really need each other to pull each other up. We’ve got close to our goal this year of coming together as a team.

“We made improvements throughout the season,” she added. “But we just lack that last little bit. Maybe if the season went longer, we would have gotten there.”

Millington made a comeback in the third set behind plays at the net from Woodard and junior Sierra Williams. But the kill of Arlington’s Carrigan McGowen concluded the third set at 25-17.

The Lady Tigers raced out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth set. Placing the Lady Trojans on the brink of elimination, Arlington used spikes from Kee, Gabby Orive and Hayley Lavelle to make the score 18-7.

Arlington outscored Millington 7-3 down the stretch to win the match and advance.

“I wish we were moving on,” Drumm said. “But we’re not. I know the girls are disappointed and so am I. I think they did have a good season. They played well and they gave some really tough teams some good competition.”

Drumm said her seniors left their mark on the Lady Trojan program which has a bright future.

“There were eight of them,” she said. “They’ve been playing together. I think they are a special group. But I think we also have a special group coming up in our JV. We’re looking forward to next year. That’s what we have to work forward to now.”

Meanwhile the Lady Tigers continued their 2012 season advancing to the District 14-3A title game.

“We’re going to have to maintain that mental toughness,” Sanders concluded. “We can’t have peaks and valleys. We’re going to have to maintain it. We’re going to have to play smart.”

The Lady Tigers were defeated in the District 14-3A championship game by Bartlett in three sets. The Lady Panthers earned the No. 1 seed in this week’s Regional that was played on Tuesday night in Bartlett.

Bartlett played District 13-3A runner up Brighton. The Lady Tigers advanced to Regionals to play District 13-3A champions Munford.

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