By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — Back in August the Munford Lady Cougars were searching for an identity.
Head Coach Angie Gover and crew endured some rivalry defeats and close loses during that time period. Then the turning point came in mid-September sparking Munford to an appearance in the 2016 Region 7-3A Volleyball Tournament in the Arlington Gymnasium last week.
The Lady Cougars got off to a good start beating the District 14-3A champion Arlington Lady Tigers in the first set 26-24. But the Lady Tigers rallied on their home court taking the next three sets 25-16, 25-23 and 25-12 to advance to the Region championship and Sub-State round.
Although the 2016 season ended on a lackluster note, Gover was proud of how far her team came from the late summer to the early fall.
“Attitude for one got a lot better,” she acknowledged. “They started working on being a team instead of ‘I, I.’ They came together. I have good athletes on this team and a lot of potential coming up for the future. That excites me. But attitude was the big thing.”
The Lady Cougars didn’t have a winning attitude for the most part early in the season. Then a mid-season tournament was a wakeup call for the team.
“After our River City Classic Tournament that we played here,” Gover recalled. “Millington was our turning point game. We came out and beat them. We came out and beat Hardin County in both matches. Then Dyer County, it just started clicking after this River City Tournament. They just came together playing ball. They relaxed and started having fun out there.”
It was apparent the Lady Cougars, runner ups of District 13-3A, were having fun to start the Region Tournament. With the opening set tied 16-16, Ali Gover served up two points to grab the lead for Munford.
Later in the set De’Asha Banks served up an ace to give the Lady Cougars a 21-18 advantage. Down the stretch Munford held on capitalizing on Arlington miscues to win 26-24.
In the second set Lady Cougar Kelsey Frizzell spotted Munford a 3-0 lead with her serves. After the score was tied at 5-5, the Lady Cougars scored the next 4 points with Tealiyeah Pierce using an overhead volley to score.
With Munford ahead 9-5, the Lady Tigers outscored the Lady Cougars 12-3 to grab a 17-12 lead and eventually prevail 25-16.
The overall match was tied a set a piece. The cruel third set went to Arlington in a thriller 25-23. The Lady Tigers seized the momentum to dominate the fourth set 25-12.
“All season long our focus was we would have a good start but wouldn’t finish,” Gover said. “After the River City Tournament and Millington we started and finished games. But for whatever reason District Championship against Dyer County, we started off great. But couldn’t finish.
“I don’t know what that is to get them to realize,” she added. “It’s almost like they don’t know how to take the winning part of it in those big games. Just like this game. I felt like we were the better team. But for whatever reason we just could not finish. We have to learn how to finish.”
The finish of the 2016 season meant the Lady Cougars saying goodbye to Banks, Kaitlyn Westmoreland and Neely Rhea. That trio of seniors have helped influence younger Lady Cougars like Ciera Atkinson, Ally Browning and Hannah Burkhart.
“I’m losing three seniors,” Gover concluded. “De’Asha Banks is going to be a big lost hittingwise. I have a talented sophomore class coming up. They’ve gelled so well together. The chemistry they have it’s going to be so exciting to see next year and once they become seniors. I think we should be pretty dog gone good.”