By Thomas Sellers Jr.
BARTLETT — Led by the MVP performance of senior Kenzie Fields, the Bartlett Lady Panthers are once again Region 7-3A Volleyball champions.
Last Tuesday in the Bartlett Gymnasium, the Lady Panthers advance to the title game beating Hardin County, the District 13-3A runner ups. Bartlett would face the Munford Lady Cougars after they sweep the Bolton Lady Wildcats in the other semifinal match.
It was District 13-3A champions Munford vs. District 14-3A champions Bartlett for the Region championship once again. For the fourth straight year it was the Lady Panthers coming out on top of the rivalry this time 25-17, 23-25, 25-13 and 25-9.
Both teams advanced to Thursday’s Sectional round with Bartlett hosting Region 8-3A runner up Collierville. Munford will travel to Region 8-3A champion Houston. Winners will advance to next week’s Class 3A State Tournament in Murfreesboro.
“This was awesome and we’ve won the Region championship the last four years,” Fields said. “This is special because this is our last Region championship.”
The Lady Panthers senior class has won the Regional title every year and Head Coach Sherri Walker said they have earned each one on and off the court.
“Very special class,” she said. “They’re focused and serious about their volleyball. They worked really hard. They’re just great kids, not only in volleyball but in the classroom. I have three of my seniors in my AP Calculus class. Just a really great group of kids.”
Munford’s seniors can be considered a great group as well reaching Sectionals each year with the Lady Cougar program making it 8 straight seasons under coaches Mike Anderson, Nina Makris and now Angie Buchanan.
“It feels good and they’ve done it in the past,” Buchanan said. “They’re used to going. We felt we played good tonight. Earlier in the year, we did not get a game off Bartlett. So we felt like we competed better and played better against Bartlett. We felt like we were in the match.
“We were happy to get a game off of them,” she added. “It’s been a while since we’ve got a game off Bartlett.”
To get to Bartlett, Munford beat Bolton 25-14, 25-11 and 25-22. Lady Cougar senior Taylor Hobson sparked her team in the opening set with her serving and play at the net. All-Region player Cecily Gable slapped down three straight spikes to make the score 17-10.
Hobson’s aces and serves build the advantage to 23-10 in the first set. The Lady Wildcats would only score 11 points in the second set.
Lady Cougars like Maddison Welch, Abigail Bell and Mikayla Pugh contributed to the 14-point second set win with points from the serve.
Bolton went down fighting in the third set only trailing 23-21 late in the set. Then Gable executed a spike to helped Munford prevail 25-22 and advance to play Bartlett.
The Lady Panthers came out hot in the first set of the championship game behind the play of Fields. Several of her kills and blocks at the net help the Lady Panthers jump ahead 22-14. To close out the opening set, Bartlett received a tip from Ariel Goforth to make the score 25-17.
Then the Lady Cougars regrouped to take a 7-2 lead in the second set. Bartlett rallied to tie the set at 16-16.
The Lady Panthers took the lead at 19-16 when Fields hit a cross-court spike. Munford had an answer for Bartlett with Gable tying the set at 19-19 with a kill of her own.
Goforth gave the lead back to Bartlett with a spike and block to make the score 22-20. Finally Munford’s Lily “Hammer” Turner took control of the second set.
Turner’s kill cut the Bartlett lead to 22-21. Later in the set Turner gave Munford the lead for good with a well-place tip making the scoreboard read 24-23. The Lady Panthers hit the ball out of bounds to give the set to Munford 25-23.
With the overall match tied at a set a piece, Fields said the remedy for Bartlett was simple.
“We’ve always worked together as a team,” she said. “So we had to just regroup and come back together as one. We all played amazing. It’s not just one person. We played together as a team tonight.”
Lady Panthers like Audrey Wetzel, Allison Schweizer, Lindsey Farrell, Mary Pat Harris and Reagan Creech all played key parts in the next two sets going the way of Bartlett 25-13 and 25-9.
“It’s the fourth win in a row which is really hard since everybody is shooting for you,” Walker said. “I much rather be the underdog and sneak up on people than be on top trying to get knocked off.”
The Lady Panthers got the chance to take on the role of hunter entering Thursday’s Sectional game against the Collierville Lady Dragons.
“It’s going to take ball control,” Walker said. “It always takes ball control first and foremost. It’s going to take a good balance attack. We can’t be one dimensional. Everyone is going to have to be a contributor. And when we play that way we’re really tough to beat.”
Bartlett was hard to beat Thursday night advancing to this week’s State Tournament at Siegel High School. The Lady Panthers defeated Collierville in Sub-State on their home court 25-17, 23-25, 25-13 and 25-9.
Bartlett (40-6) will open the Class 3A State Tournament against Houston. The Lady Mustangs (33-15) outlasted Munford in Sectionals 25-19, 23-25, 25-10 and 25-23 Thursday night.
Bartlett will take on Houston in Round One of the State Tournament Wednesday. The State Tournament will conclude Friday.