By Thomas Sellers Jr.
BARTLETT — Shelby County volleyball has seen a shakeup the past five years.
Traditional rivalries have been either postponed, terminated or taken on new meaning with teams moving in classifications and switching districts.
The Millington Lady Trojans entered their Sept. 10 contest in a familiar place. For several years Millington would visit the Bartlett Gymnasium to take on the Lady Panthers as a District 13-3A foe.
Now the Lady Trojans class call District 15-2A home and are the defending champions of the league. Meanwhile, Bartlett still competes in 3A but now in a district with powerhouse Houston and Collierville. The Lady Mustangs and Lady Dragons, respectively, would traditionally be the Sub-State opposition for Bartlett.
These days the Lady Panthers have to oust one of those teams just to make Regionals. So last Monday’s matchup renewed the Lady Trojans vs. Lady Panthers rivalry and gave both teams a chance to improve toward October.
The Lady Panthers took the contest over Millington 25-3, 25-15 and 25-4. Lady Trojan Head Coach Abby Wade noted Bartlett provided her team a good test for mid-September.
“I’m hoping that they’re learning the ball comes a lot faster,” she said. “That they’re learning to move their feet so that when we play the 2A teams we are able to cover the court a lot quicker and be able to move to the ball a lot better.
“Once we get into late September and October, that’s when we’re playing for something,” Wade continued. “So I don’t expect it to slow down. I expect our girls to speed up.”
The Lady Panthers came out firing on all cylinders in the opening set behind the attacking of Faith Tyler, Sydney Harville and Karagan Coggin at the net. The Bartlett trio took the passes of teammates Reagan Harvey to score on spikes building a 9-1 advantage.
Then Harville went back to her familiar role of setting to help Bartlett take the first set 25-3. Harville passed the ball to Coggin for a kill that made the tally 13-2.
Harville’s serving was on point throughout the first set with an ace that made the score 20-2. After Millington broke serve, Coggin closed out the frame with her service.
“We’ve tried a lot of new rotations lately,” Bartlett Head Coach Steffanie Grisham said. “Our girls have been very, very disciplined. I think we had excellent serve and receive. Takes a good pass to do any of the fun stuff, the high-flying stuff. It takes excellent defense.
“I think our defenders moved their feet very, very well,” she added. “Both our setters, Sydney and Reagan, both of them put the ball where we need to get good swings. Mackenzie and Karagan both had excellent days hitting.”
It took the hitting of Mackenzie White to help the Lady Panthers survive the second set. The Lady Trojans made adjustments and displayed heart by jumping out 6-2. The spike by Haley Adkins sparked Millington on the early run.
The Lady Panthers clawed back to make the score 7-6 in favor of the Lady Trojans. Millington matched Bartlett point for point until Harville served up an ace to make the score 11-10.
The Lady Panthers jumped ahead 15-10 with the serving of Harville. Bartlett outscored Millington 10-5 down the stretch to go ahead 2-0 in overall sets.
The third set was a chance for Bartlett to display offensive and defensive skills. Lady Panthers Jamya Boyland scored points for her team with blocks and tips at the net. White flew in and slammed a spike later in the frame that made the score 18-3.
The Lady Panthers kept the pressure on Millington with serving to prevail 25-4. Despite Bartlett displaying some dominance in a pair of sets, Wade’s bunch left Tree City with a philosophy rooted in unity.
“Hope they remember that they are a team and that they have to play as a team,” she said. “Especially with such a young team, it is easy to breakdown and look at things individually. But hope they remember that they play as a team and that they’ll be one team forever.”
The Millington victory improved Bartlett to 16-1 overall, with the only defeat coming to Houston. Grisham said September is a time to improve to make a run toward State. In the new-look district with Houston and Collierville, the intensity picks up a lot sooner.
“You’ve got to beat one of those teams at some point,” she concluded. “Now you’ve just got to beat them sooner. Houston, Collierville and Bartlett have been competitive for years. So we just welcome the good competition earlier in the season. Like I said before, ball handling is everything. As long as we stay disciplined, we can be competitive with anyone.”
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