By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Tamarah Brandon has celebrated countless victories inside the William Osteen Gymnasium.
During her days as a student at Millington Central High School, Brandon won a few volleyball games and even helped the Lady Trojans clinch a berth in the 2008 Class 3A State Girls’ Basketball Tournament.
But on Aug. 15, Brandon was trying to win her first game in the venue as a coach. Debuting as the leader of the Lady Trojan Volleyball program, Brandon and her Millington squad took on the Brighton Lady Cardinals.
Millington pulled off a three-set victory against the visiting Lady Cardinals 25-22, 25-18 and 25-20. No stranger to winning in the gymnasium and with her group of girls, Brandon was thinking as coach moments after her first win.
“We did lack on a few things — simple things we can fix,” she noted. “But other than that, they worked as a team. Them moved their feet and they did communicate. So I’m glad they did what they did. And I’m also glad we improved on some of the things we missed on in last week’s scrimmage. I’m glad they prospered today.”
Then it dawn on the 23-year-old, she just achieved her first win as coach.
“I was nervous. I felt like I was about to play,” she acknowledged. “ I was shaking. I was a little confused and didn’t know what to do as far as coaching goes like filling out rotation sheets and libero sheets. It was like stressful. Then it was like, ‘OK, I got this.’”
Once Brandon claim her nerves, she was ready to send out a lineup of Addison Coulter, Hannah Clifton, Paige Hall, Dymond Green, Camila Irizarry, Lily Morton and Divine Lurry. The Lady Cardinals countered with Makayla Rose, Sidney Cottingham, Gracie Poirer, Lindsey Morrisette, Shamorow Taylor and Mary Grace Smith.
The defending District 15-2A Tournament champs Lady Trojans started sluggish against Brighton. The Lady Cardinals, a regular to Regionals from District 13-3A, matched Millington’s pace in the opening set.
Through miscues and errors the Lady Trojans emerged with a 25-22 win. Both squads settled down from their early jitters to play smoother and with more structure. The second set was tied at 10-10 earlier with Lady Cardinal Mary Grace Smith pacing her team with aces.
Then the Lady Trojans seized control of the set when Lily Morton used a couple of aces to give Millington a 14-10 advantage.
With Millington ahead 24-18 later in the set, Hannah Clifton ended the second frame with a reverse tip at the net giving the Lady Trojans the 25-18 win.
Brighton kept the entire third set close behind the play of Makayla Rose. She scored in a variety of ways with spikes, blocks and serves. Millington kept pace behind the play at the net of Addison Coulter.
The lengthy junior displayed power with kills. Then Coulter illustrated her grace with well-placed tips over the net.
After the third set was tied at 17-17, 18-18 and 19-19, Brighton took the lead at 20-19 courtesy of an ace. Millington closed out the set and the game with a 6-0 run.
“I feel like they’re actually listening to me,” Brandon said. “We’re like a family. We’re bonding. It’s not like I am just their coach. I’m actually somebody to look up to. I’ve coached them in middle school. It’s like, ‘We have the same coach we had in middle school. This is great. She’ll always be there for us.’ They inspire me and I hope I am inspiring them.”
Although she took a moment to enjoy her accomplishment of her first coaching victory, Brandon left the court in coach mode.
“Talking more,” she concluded. “Encourage your teammates. And show effort. She me that you want the ball, that you want to win. Move your feet and communicate.”