By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS – The Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebel Volleyball program has been moving up the past few years.
With players reaching the college level, several league wins and last season’s Sub-State appearance, Head Coach Wendy Porter has watched TRA Volleyball become a power in the Shelby-Metro area.
So when the Lady Rebels arrived on the campus of St. Mary’s last Thursday to take on the host Turkeys, the home players were ready for a showdown. St. Mary’s took the opening set 25-20.
Once TRA realized it was in for a fight, the Lady Rebels rallied to take 3 of the 4 final sets to prevail 20-25, 25-14, 25-17, 20-25 and 15-9.
“I was a little worried,” Porter acknowledged. “Defensively they came out a little scrappier than I expected them to, St. Mary’s. But we pulled through.
“Defensively we had to step it up,” she added. “We were not hitting our defensive marks. Offensively, we had to get the ball to our big hitters. We have six girls who can hit the ball. But we have two or three hitters who can finish the play.”
Lady Rebels like Kallie Alexander, Jordan Allen, Maggie Stephens, Neely Turner, Ashton Pickard and Sam Hopper all contributed in pulling out the five-set win. But the home run hitters Porter wanted to receive a fair share of the sets were Mary Leslie Cranford and Haley Ramsey.
Despite a few big hits courtesy of Cranford, Stephens and Ramsey in the first set, the Turkeys earned the 5-point win.
TRA made a few adjustments defensively to neutralize the St. Mary’s hitters. The serving of Turner and Hopper allowed the Lady Rebels to jump out 7-1 in the second set.
When Ramsey slapped down her final spike of the set, TRA tied the overall match 1-1 with a 25-14 victory.
TRA looked to seize control in the third set holding a 12-8 advantage early. Turner used her jump serve to create some separation at 16-11. St. Mary’s was still hanging around when Alexander found open space with a hit to make the score 19-15. TRA outscored the Turkeys 6-2 with points from Ramsey and Hopper to prevail 25-17.
Ahead 10-5 in the fourth set, TRA was moments away from the overall victory. But the Turkeys escaped doom outscoring the Lady Rebels 20-10 the rest of the frame to force a decisive set.
It was time for the Lady Rebels to rely on their championship experience to pull out the road victory. St. Mary’s led 6-5 when Ramsey snatched momentum with a vicious spike.
Hopper broke the 6-6 deadlock with a kill of her own. The TRA advantage grew to 10-7 when Ramsey scored on a backrow spike.
The score became 12-8 when Cranford contributed with a spike. Turner served up another ace and the score was 13-8.
Jordan Allen and Ramsey scored the final two points for the win going above the net with kills.
“Mental toughness,” Porter concluded. “They are a good team and they have good hitters. They see the floor well. So we had to do the same. We had to play good defense. We just couldn’t be a good offensive team. And we had to be mentally tough and limit mistakes.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.