By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Before arriving in Millington in 2014, Jenna Harper worked at Ripley High School and with the volleyball program.
Moving to Flag City, Harper was ready to take on the challenge of leading the Lady Trojan Volleyball program in Class 3A. But with Millington being reclassified to 2A, Harper moved into the league with her old school.
The Ripley Lady Tigers reacquainted themselves with Harper Aug. 24 in the William Osteen Gymnasium taking the first set 25-20. Harper and her Lady Trojans regrouped and played the roll of rude host winning the net three sets 25-20, 25-18 and 25-20 to take the overall match.
“We decided to play as a team and stop pouting,” Harper said. “We started to hustle, talk and move. Then it was great.After we made a mistake, we fixed it. We just put the ball away.”
Harper said her players had to have their mental game in top form against the Lady Tigers.
“They’re a good fundamental volleyball team,” she said. “We know that they were going to be tough. We knew that they know the game of volleyball. Their coaches are awesome.
“So all we have to do is play our game and don’t leave it in their hands,” Harper added. “We have to take care of the ball on our side. And we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
After dropping the first set, the Lady Trojans started slow in the second set falling behind 8-4. Then the play of Ashley Freeze and Autumn Taylor at the net sparked a 10-6 run for Millington.
Throughout the run, Lady Trojan senior Ally Hall could be seen verbally inspiring her teammates. It was Hall who scored on a kill to make the score 15-14 in favor of the Lady Trojans.
Kieanna Fields served up two more points to make the score 17-14. Points from Taylor and Hall closed out the second set with Millington winning 25-20.
The third set Millington jumped out 5-1 with points from Taylor and Paige Hall on kills. The Lady Trojans were ahead 13-5 when Hall served up an ace.
Then Hall’s fellow senior Freeze closed out the Lady Tigers with several points including a kill to win 25-18.
“We just worked as team,” Freeze said. “After we made a mistake, we just put it away and was ready for the next play.
“We worked as a team and put the ball away,” she continued. “We didn’t worry about any mistakes. We just worked together.”
One set away from the overall district win, the Lady Trojans looked to Freeze and Hall to lead them. Hall continued to inspire while Freeze scored on aces, blocks and kills.
Ripley managed to hold a narrow advantage throughout the fourth set. Freeze stopped the Lady Tigers’ momentum with a block to make the score 10-9 in favor of Ripley.
Millington gained a 14-11 advantage when Freeze served an ace. Ripley rallied to tie the fourth set at 15-15.
With the Lady Tigers ahead 18-15, the Lady Trojans had the final run of the night sparked by an Ally Hall volley that deadlock the set at 18-18.
Hall later had an ace and Lady Trojan Dymond Green scored on a kill to make the score 20-19 in favor of Millington.
Paige Hall closed out the contest with back-to-back aces. Freeze said it took mental focus and the leadership of the seniors to turn the corner against Ripley.
“Other players on the team look up to Ally and me because we are seniors,” Freeze said. “I look up to Ally too even though I am a senior. I just stepped up and was vocal too.
“I will step up my game,” she concluded. “I can’t let it (a mistake) get to me because I know other players are looking up to me.”