By Thomas Sellers Jr.
All things were going according to plans in the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Gymnasium honoring the trio of Kendall Seering, Jackie Kuykendall and Sara Hall.
Several people wore the requested white for the trio of 12th graders for Senior Night. And Lady Thursday Head Coach Wendy Porter and the TRA Volleyball program recognized Seering, Kuykendall and Hall prior to the first serve against the Homeschool of Little Rock Lady Flames.
All that was left to do was beat the Lady Flames. But Little Rock wasn’t cooperating pushing the Lady Rebels to the brink of exhaustion in three sets.
With contributions from underclassmen like Madison Cranford, Jordyn Thornell, Asante Lopez and Bethany Berger, the TRA trio was able to celebrate a Senior Night victory 25-21, 26-24, 20-25 and 25-12.
“We wanted to get it done for our seniors,” Berger said. “They bust their butts in practice and they bust their butts during the games. So we wanted to get Senior Night for them.”
And it appeared getting the Senior Night victory would be easy with TRA jumping out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. But the Little Rock comeback was a sign of things to come the rest of the night. The Lady Flames heated up and made the score 21-19 in favor of the Lady Rebels.
TRA held on to win 25-21. The second set played out in similar this time with the Lady Rebels having to fight back. Late in the second set the Lady Flames were ahead 22-12.
“Our goal is always to keep everybody up, no heads down,” Lopez noted. “If someone is down, it sort brings the whole team down. That’s when teams fold. We don’t want that. So with us, there’s at least one player with their head up to keep us all up.”
Lopez held her head up to see a spike opportunity that made the score 22-16. Another Lopez kill made the score 22-20.
Little Rock stopped the TRA 8-0 run and jumped ahead 24-20. The Lady Rebels were one-point away from defeat in the set.
Then Lopez helped TRA regain the momentum with a kill. Then Kuykendall used her service game to get the Lady Rebels to within 24-23.
TRA tied the set at 24-24 when Thornell made a block at the net. Then “Air” Jordyn was at it again seconds later with another block to give the Lady Rebels a 25-24 lead. An error by the Lady Flames gave TRA the winning point and put the Lady Rebels ahead 2-0 in sets.
The third set was a seesaw battle until the score was 17-17. Then the Lady Flames outscored TRA 8-3 down the stretch to win the frame.
Heading to the bench before the fourth set, the TRA senior Kendall Seering could be overhead encouraging her teammates to finish the game.
Berger heard her senior leader and sparked the Lady Rebels to a 6-0 advantage with serves. It was the combination of Berger and Lopez kills throughout the fourth set that helped the TRA pull away for a 25-12 victory.
“I was just staying calm, cool and collected,” Berger noted. “I was focusing on what was needed to be done, who is our key hitter, who was our key passer, just getting all our key players together making it happen.”
All the key players helped make the game portion of the night special for the seniors. And the Lady Rebels head into the postseason as the No. 2 seed hosting games.
So the game against the Lady Flames won’t be the last time Seering, Kuykendall and Kendall play in the TRA Gymnasium.
“It feels good to get this win but I’m sad to see them go,” Lopez said. “They’ve had a great season and helped us come a long way.”
Berger said she’s hoping for a successful playoff run with the trio and winning Senior Night was the team’s gift to them.
“They mean everything to me,” Berger concluded. “They have strong leadership the three of them together. We would not be where we are today without them.”