By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Maybe it was bus lag or the fact the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels were primed to make school history, but the Concord Christian School Lady Lions found themselves behind 23-17 in the first set.
The Division II-A Sub-State game was going the way of the host Lady Rebels Saturday afternoon in the TRA Gymnasium. Then it seemed the Lady Lions remembered their championship pedigree. Concord rallied to steal the opening set 28-26. The Lady Lions kept the momentum the next two sets winning 25-16 and 25-14 to advance to next week’s State Volleyball Tournament in Murfreesboro.
“I think we came out strong, ready and confident,” TRA Head Coach Wendy Porter said. “I think after that first set we got a little discouraged.
“They did fight,” she continued. “We fought. We kept trying but we just couldn’t put the ball away. They had a good defense. We had more hitting errors than you can at this level today. We haven’t been doing that lately. It was just not our hitting night.”
The Lady Lions were energized after winning the first set in extra times. The girls from Knoxville were participating in their first Division II-A Sectional game, meanwhile TRA was making its second straight appearance in the round.
Concord was one for one in reaching Division II-A Sub-States. The Lady Lions were in Division II-AA previously reaching the State Tournament the past two years in that classification.
With the first set 28-26 victory, Concord was two sets away from making three straight trips to State. The Lady Rebels tried to regroup and keep their dream of Murfreesboro alive in the second set jumping ahead 6-4 after Haley Ramsey had a block at the net.
Concord scored the next four points to grab a 8-6 advantage. Maggie Stephens and Ramsey tied the set for TRA with a spike and hit.
The Lady Lions proceeded with a 10-2 run to seize control of the second set. Concord’s Abby Collins tried to put the set away with a spike. Then her teammate Annabelle Sulish served up a pair of aces to make the score 21-11.
TRA made a small rally with Neely Turner serving an ace to make the tally 23-16. Sulish ended the set with a hit giving Concord the 25-16 win.
The third set started off as a seesaw affair. TRA received points from Sam Hopper, Jordan Allen and Ramsey to keep the score deadlock at 6-6. Lady Lion Sidney Sherrill broke the tie with a kill.
With the score 10-8 in favor of Concord, the Lady Lions went on a 11-4 run. Collins and Elizabeth Dawson executed back-to-back kills that made the tally 21-12. Concord outscored TRA 4-2 down the stretch to win the Sectional and advance to State.
The defeat brought the 2017 season to a conclusion for the Lady Rebels. TRA went 8-0 in district and 2-2 in the postseason to earn a home Sub-State game. Porter’s Lady Rebels won 23 games with a mostly underclassmen roster.
“We’ve got eight girls who get a lot of court time who are coming back next year,” Porter said. “Obviously it’s not a one-man show. Because of that, if these girls keep working hard we should have a solid team for the next two or three years. If they keep working and fighting for it. The drive is there. They know what it taste like. We just need to finish.”
The game was the conclusion for the Lady Rebel careers of Sydney Pilkington, Kallie Alexander and Haley Ramsey. Porter said the trio was the foundation for the success of this year’s team.
“They were the backbone of this time,” she said. “We relied on Haley a lot on the court. Kallie has come out strong the last two or three ball games. She has played her best volleyball I’ve seen the past four years for her. Sydney is just our consistent. She is an encourager.
“All three of them, these younger girls look up to them,” Porter concluded. “They keep our team calm. And they have been phenomenal leaders, just solid and wonderful young ladies. They have been just great role models for the younger girls on and off the court. I wouldn’t ask for three better seniors. It’s going to take a toll on us. People will have to step up to fill their shoes.”
The 2017 TRA Lady Rebels are Kallie Alexander, Jordan Allen, Mary Leslie Cranford, Allison Davidson, Sam Hopper, Ashton Pickard, Sydney Pilkington, Haley Ramsey, Maggie Stephens, Sarah Allyn Thornell, Neely Turner, Eva McIntosh, Mary Catherine Turner and Emma Kate Davidson