By Thomas Sellers Jr.
That night TRA was moments away from victory on several occasions against the Lady Eagles before scumming to ECS in five thrilling sets. Back on the court Sept. 17 in the William Osteen Gymnasium, the Lady Rebels looked as if they would be in another five-set contest against the rival Millington Lady Trojans.
The defending District 15-2A champs kept TRA guessing throughout the first set winning 25-23. After Millington’s open set victory, the Lady Rebels remembered the lessons from the ECS defeat to overcome the Lady Trojans 23-25, 25-10, 25-10 and 25-12.
Porter said the ECS thriller pointed out a couple areas of concern for her squad.
“We have to play smarter and we have to see the court,” she noted. “We’re playing to survive and we’re not playing to win. The momentum gets going and we get in our heads. We think, ‘I just have to get the ball up. I just have to get the ball off the court.’ And we’re putting in their hands and not placing it where we need to place it.”
The Lady Trojans placed the ball where TRA couldn’t get to it throughout the first set. With Millington nursing a 9-8 advantage, the Lady Trojans rolled off four straight points to surge ahead 12-8.
The Lady Rebels managed to deadlock the opening set at 13-13. That was the first of six ties down the stretch. Millington used timely hits, saves and spikes from Hannah Clifton, Sierra Wilburn, Lexi Peerey, Haley Adkins and Avery Smith to keep the contest close.
Then Ally Marona seized the first set victory with a spike to make the score 25-23.
TRA bounced back in the second set correcting one aspect of its attack.
“The first set we missed 10 serves,” Porter noted. “That’s a game changer. In the second set, we only missed two serves. When you only miss two serves, it gives you room to do other things and score instead of scoring for the other team.”
Lady Rebels like Neely Turner, Sarah Allyn Thornell and Mary Leslie “Cranbury” Cranford tallied many points with serves.
Then Cranford scored points the way that earned her the nickname “Cranbury.” Cranford buried the ball into the floor various times on spikes. One of her kills made the score 24-10. Then Thornell served up an ace to give the Lady Rebels the 25-10 win.
TRA went up 2-1 in overall sets winning again 25-10. After Marona scored on a spike to make the tally 14-8 in the third set, the Lady Rebels outscored Millington 11-2 to prevail.
The fourth set was close early until Cranford scored on back-to-back spikes to make the tally 10-5. Thornell contributed to TRA’s run with a pair of aces. The Lady Rebels neutralized the Lady Trojans to win by 13 points and close out the match.
With the “Flag City Showdown” in the book, both squads are nearing October and the postseason. Millington will be in the mix in District 15-2A to try to grab one of the top two spots. And TRA plans to see some familiar foes throughout the 10th month.
“We’ve got a hard road with Harding and St. George’s,” Porter concluded. “Then it’s ECS. Although Harding and St. George’s are not district, those games are going to be important for tempo and to give us a good rhythm of what to do during Regionals.”