By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When you’re ahead 23-8 in the first set of a volleyball game, it can be easy to find yourself getting over confident.
Some of the Brighton Lady Cardinals were falling into that trip Sept. 22 in the Brighton Gymnasium building that commanding advantage leading to a 25-10 win over the Munford Lady Cougars. But the night wouldn’t be smooth sailing for Brighton.
“We all started to think this was going to be an easy game,” Brighton’s Makayla Rose acknowledged. “I’m not going to lie about that. The Student Section was all pumped and that was getting us excited. We just wanted to come out with a win tonight. And we did.
Munford bounced back in the second set to win 25-17. Brighton took a thrilling third set 27-25. The Lady Cougars stayed alive in the fourth set winning 25-23. The fifth and decisive set would belong to the Lady Cardinals edging out the Lady Cougars 15-13.
“You can never underestimate your opponent,” Brighton’s Shayna Johnson said. “I did kind of figure it would be easy after the first set. But they showed us a good game. It was an awesome game.”
Brighton dominated the opening set breaking a 2-2 tie behind the serving of Rose. Her seven aces made the score 9-2. Johnson followed Rose’s performance with solid serving of her own to give the Lady Cardinals a 14-4 advantage.
Their teammate Emma Wade made the score 22-8 with a tip and Rose followed with a kill that made the scoreboard read 23-8. The Lady Cardinals closed out the first set with a 15-point win.
Munford Head Coach Angie Gover tried to fire her team up for the next set but the Lady Cougars fell behind 5-1.
Lady Cougar De’Asha Banks snapped the Lady Cardinals’ momentum with a tip. Moments later Munford’s Ally Browning served two aces to give the Lady Cougars a 7-6 lead.
The second set remained close with Brighton holding a 14-13 lead. Banks took control of the serve and set helping Munford achieve a 19-14 advantage.
Banks closed out the set with a spike and tip for scores giving Munford the second frame 25-17.
The climax of the night was the third set featuring 11 lead changes and 17 ties. Lady Cougars like Bailee Webb, Kelsey Frizzell, Kaitlyn Westmore, Makayla Pugh and Sloan Caruthers came up with big plays to keep Munford close.
Meanwhile Lady Cardinals like Abi Martin, Lindsey Morrissett and Wade joined Johnson making enough plays to pull out the third set victory.
With the score tied at 23-23, Banks gave Munford the lead with a spike. After Brighton tied the score at 24-24, Munford grabbed a one-point lead again at 25-24.
Johnson tied the contest at 25-25 with an ace. Brighton took the lead for good in the third set when Wade scored on a tip. Johnson finally won the set 27-25 serving up an ace.
“We realized we had to focus a lot more,” Johnson said. “We had to really give it all we had to win this ball game. Luckily we did.”
Before Brighton could earn the overall victory, the Lady Cougars earned a fourth set win 25-23. Munford held the lead most of the set behind the attacks of Caruthers, Pugh and Banks at the net. A spike by Caruthers made the score 16-9.
The Lady Cardinals rallied to make the score 24-23. Morrissett’s serving helped Brighton to get back into the fourth set, but Banks slammed the door with a tip for the 25-23 win.
It was time for the final set and the first team to 15 points would win the District 13-3A showdown. The Lady Cougars appeared to be that team jumping out to a 9-5 lead. Brighton Head Coach Cheryl Jacobs called a timeout to slow down Munford’s momentum.
The strategy worked with Brighton going on a 7-0 run to take a 12-9 lead. Johnson had three aces in that stretch. And a kill by Martin gave the Lady Cardinals a three-point lead.
Back-to-back errors by Brighton made the score 12-11 and Caruthers executed an ace of her own to deadlock the fifth set at 12-12.
Then a Munford error broke the tie in favor of Brighton at 13-12. With the score 14-13 in favor of the Lady Cardinals, Wade finally ended the game with a tip.
“It feels awesome and plus this is a district game,” Rose said. “We’re going to kill it in districts kill it. This will keep us get ready. We’re so ready.”
The District 13-3A Volleyball Tournament starts later this month. The win over Munford will help the Lady Cardinals with seeding. Johnson also noted when injured teammates Sydney Cottingham and Ally Mize back, Brighton has the potential to go on a deep postseason run.
“They both should be back,” she concluded. “They are total game changers just with our mindset, game play and they add so much to our game. We missed them out there tonight. They are our family.”