By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Waiting on the top team in the district were the host Munford Lady Cougars. Also in the Munford Gymnasium that night was a large crowd ready to celebrate Senior Night for Tealiyah Pierce, Sam Hopper, Maddie Rittinger, Hannah Burkhart, Cierra Atkinson and Emma Ping.
The Lady Cardinals brought a student section to cancel out the Munford students in the Tipton County rivalry. But the energy from the home court crowd pushed the Lady Cougars to prevail over the Lady Cardinals 25-17, 25-20 and 25-18.
“No one wants to lose on their Senior Night,” Lady Cougar Sam Hopper said. “This will be a night we all will remember. Now all we have to do is beat Arlington and we’ll be first in the district.”
Munford looked to get into the district championship picture jumping out to a lead in the opening set. Brighton trailed 18-12 at one point. Then Lady Cougar sophomore Jordan Moore seized control of the set with a kill to make the score 19-13. Ping added a spike later making the tally 22-15.
After Munford took the first frame 25-17, Brighton rallied in the second set going ahead 7-2 after an ace from DeMiyah Gatlin. Later in the set the score was 14-9 in favor of the Lady Cardinals.
Then Munford started to chip away at the deficit. After Gatlin kept Brighton ahead 16-12 with a kill and another ace, Munford finally deadlock the set at 17-17 when Atkinson used her jump serve for an ace.
After the Lady Cardinals went ahead 20-19, Hopper used a tip to tie the second set once again. Moments later Hopper executed another tip giving the Lady Cougars a 23-20 advantage.
After Atkinson scored to make the score 24-20, Hopper was at it once again with a tip to close out the second set 25-20.
Munford was on the brink of overall victory entering the third set. The Lady Cougars forged ahead 18-13 after Hopper scored at the net with another tip. Then the Lady Cardinals rallied behind senior captain Lauron Chaney. Chaney scored twice including a spike that made the tally 19-16.
But the Lady Cougars proceed with a 6-2 run to close out the set and game.
“Something we all worked hard for,” Atkinson said. “This feels fantastic. Big rivalry. It’s a really good win. Now we have a chance to be top dog in district. It makes it more special when we head into district tournament.”
The 2018 district tournament will be held in Dyer County next month. Back in August the Lady Cougars were trying to find their identity taking on area rival the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels.
“Entering TRA, we hadn’t been in any tournaments yet,” Hopper recalled. “TRA had been in some. The tournament later participated in definitely helped us to push game after game.”
Atkinson said the season’s turning point came for the Lady Cougars later in the season.
“White Station,” she noted. “That game was our turning point. It was the game we pushed harder playing a team that was good also. We fought with someone just as equal as us. Beating them was a boost for all our other games.”
As the regular season comes to a conclusion, the Lady Cougars are poised for another push and run against familiar foes.
“All the other teams will be looking at us, ‘Oh that’s the team to beat,’” Hopper concluded. “And I don’t think that has happened in a few years. Just being up there, we will have the confidence knowing we beat these teams before. We just have to play our game.”