By Thomas Sellers Jr.
CORDOVA — The fifth and deciding set being tied four times and having three lead changes after the score was 12-11 was a synopsis of the night in the ECS Gymnasium.
The visiting Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels were moments away from victory jumping ahead 9-3 in the final set. But the host Evangelical Christian School Lady Eagles were prepared to fight to the very end.
The Lady Eagles used clutch plays from Lillie Robinson, Hannah Benson and Audrey Hutchins to pull out the fifth set 17-15. ECS earned the overall win 22-25, 25-22, 12-25, 25-22 and 17-15.
“We’ve been pushing very hard in practice — really hard,” ECS Head Coach Eric Bouchoc said. “To the point the girls are not liking me very much these days. What the ends up doing is causing them to push all the way through the game.”
TRA was doing the pushing around in the first set jumping out 17-10. The Lady Rebel tandem of Mary Leslie Cranford and “The Test” Sarah Allyn Thornell scored on a variety of tips and spikes. Other TRA standouts in the opening set were Eva McIntosh and Neely Turner with serving.
TRA was ahead 20-12 at one point. The Lady Eagles fought back to make the score 23-20. Then Cranford scored on a back-row spike to seize control of the first set. TRA won 25-22.
Bouchoc and crew made adjustments in the second set inserting Robinson on the front line. Her height distracted the TRA front line and then Robinson blocked some of the Lady Rebel kill attempts.
ECS kept the second set close throughout and then surged ahead 24-18. The Lady Eagles closed out the second frame when Taylor Aaron slapped a spike to win 25-22.
The third set was all Lady Rebels. TRA Head Coach Wendy Porter had her girls firing on all cylinders building a 15-8 advantage. Down the stretch TRA outscored the Lady Eagles 10-4. Mary Catherine Turner contributed in the 25-12 win with an ace and multiple serves.
TRA was ahead 2-1 in overall sets. ECS had to once again fight to avoid overall defeat. The fourth set was tied 11 times with the final deadlock at 21-21.
Lady Eagle Elizabeth Perkins broke the tie with a block at the net. Perkins scored again for ECS making the tally 23-21. After a Cranford tip score for TRA, ECS obtained the final two points to force a decisive set.
“It’s just the motivation I try to instill in them during practice,” Bouchoc said. “I put my foot on their heads and I don’t let them up in practice. So they get to the point it gets very frustrating and difficult for them to do what I am asking them to do. But in the end it causes them to have that spark when the time is needed.”
The spark appeared weak for ECS in the first moments of the fifth set. TRA jumped ahead 9-3 behind points from Thornell, Cranford, McIntosh and Sophie Roane. Perkins came up big once again for ECS snapping the Lady Rebels momentum with a kill.
Over the next few moments of the set, ECS outscored TRA 7-3 to make the tally 12-11 in favor of the Lady Rebels. With the score tied at 12-12, Robinson gave ECS the lead with a block.
The Lady Rebels tied the contest at 13-13. Then Thornell gave TRA the advantage with a tip making the score 14-13.
After another deadlock at 14-14, Benson regain the lead for ECS with a block. A point away from defeat, Cranford came to the rescue for TRA with a kill to tie the game at 15-15.
Then Hutchins took over the game and brought home the victory for ECS. After scoring on a tip to make the tally 16-15, Hutchins executed a spike to give the Lady Eagles the victory.
Bouchoc said his team earned a hard-fought victory over on of the best teams in the area. He hoped the win will be a turning point for his Lady Eagles come October.
“I’m really looking forward to what’s happening in the postseason,” he concluded. “We have come down a very hard road, but we’re turning a corner. I think the team is on the up.”