By Thomas Sellers Jr.
To settle the score of who was the best in Region 7-3A Volleyball came down to the Bartlett Lady Panthers and Munford Lady Cougars.
And the defending champion Lady Panthers were victorious Oct. 15 in the Munford Gymnasium 25-15, 25-21 and 28-26. Led by Regional Tournament MVP Kenzie Fields, Bartlett advanced to host a Sectional contest this Thursday.
“It feels awesome,” Fields said. “I’m so proud of our team. It’s been a good year.
“We just know we want to have a chance to go to State,” she added. “So we’ve all worked hard to get there.”
The Lady Panthers advanced to the Region championship game with a 25-19, 25-19 and 25-12 win over Dyer County in the Semifinals. The win over the Lady Choctaws secured a Sub-State spot.
Earlier in the day, District 13-3A champions Munford took to the court and eliminated the Arlington Lady Tigers in three sets 26-24, 25-20 and 25-17. That win made it seven straight Sub-State appearances for the Lady Cougars dating back to 2007.
“Our goal as always is to get to Sub-State,” Munford Head Coach Nina Makris said. “Of course we would love to go to State. Houston is a very good team. That whole Region over there with Houston, Collierville, White Station and Whitehaven , those four teams are very strong.”
Collierville and Houston advanced to the Region 8-3A championship game after eliminating the two Memphis teams. Houston outlasted the Lady Dragons to win the Region 8 title.
The Lady Mustangs earned the right to host Munford during Thursday’s Sectional round. As runner up in the league, the Collierville Lady Dragons had to travel to Bartlett.
Last year the Lady Panthers defeated Collierville to reach the 2012 Class 3A State Volleyball Tournament. Houston pulled off that trick beating the Lady Cougars last season.
Munford graduated standouts like Kelsey Hale, Sami Jo Schulz and Lauren Zvolanek from that 2012 team leaving some doubts if the Lady Cougars could reach this point again.
“We lost four seniors last year, three were starters and both of our middles,” Makris noted. “So we had to move players around and kind of start in a different direction. But I’m proud of them. They did good. They gave it a good effort.”
From 2007 to 2010, Munford won four straight Region 7-3A titles. But recent years Head Coach Shari Walker’s Lady Panthers have been queens of the league. Reaching the finals Tuesday, Bartlett jumped out to a 16-7 advantage in the first set courtesy of a kill from Fields.
Fields closed out the opening set with a spike to make the score 25-15. The second set was closer with All-Tournament player Cecily Gable pacing Munford with her attack at the net.
After falling behind 7-3, Gable led the Lady Cougars’ comeback to within a point at 12-11 with a bump. That deficit remained throughout the set until the score was 18-17 in favor of Bartlett.
Then Lady Panther All-Tournament player Demi Chipman scored a point to make the tally 21-18. Once again Fields closed out the festivities this time with a pair of spikes to make the second set final score 25-21.
The third set was tight throughout with eight ties, including 26-26. Lady Panther Melissa Hale score on a spike to break the deadlock. And when the Lady Cougars hit the ball out of bounds, Bartlett defended its Region title successfully.
Along with the team plaque, Fields took home the MVP award for Region 7, joining teammates Chipman and Alexus Luster on the All-Tournament team.
“I can’t do anything without my team,” she said. “So I know I have to go our there and give it all that I’ve got because I know everyone around me is going to do the same.”
Despite losing to Bartlett, the Lady Cougars stood one game away from State as well. The three-set win over the Arlington Lady Tigers ensured that. Munford players like Laura Leavell, Maddison Welch and Lily “Hammer” Turner contributed points in the Region Semifinal round.
“We played Arlington first and we were energetic,” Makris said. “But I don’t know if it was the break in between or we just have a mental block against Bartlett. Bartlett is such a good team and powerful team. They are so well-coached that to go up against them is such a challenge.”
Although the challenge of Bartlett proved to be overwhelming, the 2013 Lady Cougars have extended the winning tradition.
“When you say your goal is to go to Sub-State and you make Sub-State, it always feels good,” Makris concluded. “It doesn’t feel good right at this season. But it will feel good to know that we made our goal. We’re not done yet. It’s a good thing. There’s not a lot of teams that can say it goes to Sub-State over and over again like we can.”
Bartlett is in that company. And Fields wants trips to State to become a regular occurrences at Bartlett.
“We just want to go to State,” she concluded. “So we’re going to work hard just to persevere through everything. It takes hard work, team work and just never giving up.”
The Lady Panthers’ dream of reaching State again was cut short by the Collierville Lady Dragons. And Houston was victorious over Munford Thursday night. Both Houston and Collierville will compete in this week’s State Class 3A Tournament in Murfreesboro.