By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When a significant change occurs or a decisive moment is defined as a turning point.
Every good story has one. And sports is no different. And on Aug. 20 during the debut of Jessica Price as head coach of the Millington Lady Trojans the turning point came with her team up one set over the Brighton Lady Cardinals.
The moment of impact came in the second set with the Lady Trojans only trailing 18-16. After Millington senior Sierra Williams spiked a point down to bring her team within two points, she walked back to serve and suffered a cramp.
Williams collasped to the Brighton Gymnasium floor in pain and missed the rest of the second set and the entire third. The Lady Cardinals took advantage of the situation to win the contest 24-26, 25-20, 25-16 and 25-14.
“I think we were going really strong and when something happened to Sierra, it’s like I said, I’m looking for six people out there on the court,” Price said. “One person is not a team. I’ve got to have everybody picking up the slack and ready to go. I think it kind of scared everybody because Sierra is never hurt or down. But we have to pick it up.”
Throwing off the rotation and minus their verbal leader, the Lady Trojans appeared shaken over the next three sets. In the opening set Millington held the lead most of the time.
Behind solid play from Kara Fleming, the Lady Trojans were ahead 7-4. Fleming had a kill and ace in that stretch. Brighton rallied outscoring Millington 10-2 to take a 14-9 lead.
The Lady Cardinals were sparked by the duo of Ali Christmas and Charlie Hansen. A spike from Hansen tied the first set at 9-9. Christmas gave Brighton the lead at 10-9 with a kill.
With her team behind five points, Williams went on the attack with a kill that made the score 16-14 in favor of the Lady Cardinals. Her teammate Ariel Trice spiked the ball to pull Millington within a point.
The Lady Trojans regained the lead at 17-16. The Lady Cardinal had one more rally with points from Christmas and Erica Nall.
When Brighton’s Caroline Davis hit an ace to give the Lady Cardinals a 23-22 advantage, it seemed the Lady Trojans would drop the first set. Down 24-22, Trice scored on a hit to keep Millington alive.
Then Williams took over from there tying the first set at 24-24 with a kill. With the score 25-24 in favor of Millington, Williams scored the set-winning point.
The second set was competive when Williams slapped down a spike to make the score 18-16 in favor of Brighton. As she retreated to the serving line, Williams grabbed at her ankle and dropped to the floor.
The Lady Trojans scored four points after the departure of Williams. It was Hansen that led the Lady Cardinals to the second set victory with a tip and the set-winning kill.
“I am trying to step up as a senior leader,” Hansen said. “Being a senior is a bid deal. You have so many underclassmen looking up to you. They look up to you as a player and as a person to see how you treat others. It’s good to show them good qualities.”
In the third set the Lady Cardinals grabbed an early lead an maintained the advantage. Behind points from Lilly Hill and Chelsea Bingham Brighton won the set 25-16 and gained the overall set lead at 2-1.
Hansen said by the third set the Lady Cardinals were working as a cohesive unit.
“It took a lot of teamwork,” she said. “Throughout the whole preseason, we’ve been working on trying to find where each other are and read each other’s minds out there on the court. And sometimes we loose that a little bit. When we get back into it, it seemed like we settled down after that first couple of points. We gelled together. Sometimes it takes a minute for us to remember how each other plays.”
Brighton won the fourth set 25-14. Despite Williams back on the court, the Lady Trojans fell behind by double digits for the first time in the contest at 21-11. Although Fleming tried to rally Millington with two back-row spikes, the Lady Cardinals were able to score the four final points to take the match.
Price said the opening game of 2013 gave her a blueprint to improve her team and taught her players a valuable lesson.
“I think they learn they can play by themselves, one person is not a team,” she concluded. “I preach to them all the time to play as a team. I need six of them playing. I think that will help them.”
Hansen said she learned her team has the potential to play deep into October.
“Of course we would always like to go to State,” she concluded. “Last year we got put out of the Regional Tournament the first game we played. I would love to get further into Regionals so we can look at Sub-State and then State. We have a lot of potential this year. We just have to stay up.”