Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
What began as a promising evening for the Manchester Lady Greyhounds volleyball squad on Monday evening turned out to be anything but that as the Lady Hounds hosted the Whiteoak Lady Wildcats in the opening round of the Southeast District Division IV sectional tournament.
The Lady Hounds dominated the first set of play and looked poised to have an easy run to the sectional finals, before the Lady Cats had their say in the matter. After losing the first set 25-12, the Lady Cats stormed back to twin the next three, 25-23, 25-20, and 25-10, to shock the assembled Manchester faithful and make their advance in the sectional tournament instead of the host Lady Hounds.
In set number one, the home team used the strong serving of McKinlee Grooms, Abby McFarland, and Aaliyah Smith to race out to a quick 18-6 advantage. The Lady Cats rallied but a series of service points by Manchester senior Cassie Campbell led the Lady Hounds to a 23-11 lead. Two points later, a well-placed tip by McFarland gave the home team the first set 25-12, and they looked to be in full control.
The second started well for Manchester but the Lady Cats grabbed a lead on the serves of Lexi Jones. A kill by Katie Sandlin brought the hosts closer and then Sandlin stepped to the service line and reeled off six straight to put her team in front 12-7.
The Lady Hounds kept that lead though the middle of the set, going up 19-13 on a pair of service points from Campbell, forcing a Whiteoak timeout. A service ace by Grooms made it 21-14 Manchester, but then the proverbial roof caved in on the home side. Whiteoak’s Jones again stepped up to the service line and by the time she was finished, a seven-point deficit for the Lady Cats had turned into a two-point lead at 23-21. The Lady Hounds regained their composure to tie the set at 23 on an ace by Hannah Grimes, but the Lady Cats claimed the set’s final two points and took the second set 25-23.
The Lady Cats carried the momentum of the second set win over into the third set, jumping in front 6-1 on five service points from Macy Knoblach. That forced Manchester head coach Kaci Compton to use a timeout and it worked as her squad rallied, again behind the serves of Grooms and a McFarland kill, to trail just 6-5. Back came Whiteoak to take six of the next eight points to stretch their lead out to 12-7 and a pair of points off serve from Gabrille Tebo gave the visitors a 15-8 advantage.
The Lady Cats continued to extend their lead, going up 18-9, before Campbell again stepped up to serve for the home team, and fired off two aces in a six-point run that brought her team back to within 18-15. That run just stirred up the fire in the Lady Cats and they reeled off five straight to go up 23-15, before the Lady Hounds fought back on the serves of Macy Huron to make it 24-20, but when a Manchester return was long on the next volley, the Lady Cats had taken a two sets to one lead in the match.
Now with their backs against the wall and facing the end of their season, the Lady Hounds got off to a very rough start in the fourth set and never recovered. Again it was Jones for Whiteoak dominating at the service line as she scored six in a row to give her team an 11-2 lead and they never looked back. Leading later 19-6, Whiteoak freshman Bayley Carey rattled off three consecutive aces to put her team of the verge of victory. Three service points from Campbell kept the lady Hounds alive, but the final two points of the set went to the Lady Cats and the 25-10 win gave them the match three sets to one and moved them on to the Division IV sectional championship game.
The Lady Hounds’ loss saw their season end at 6-14, the first season for Compton as head coach. It also was the final match of the careers for seniors Cassie Campbell and Hannah Grimes.
“The first year as head coach was challenging, but so rewarding,” said Compton. “I was blessed with an amazing group of young women-especially our two seniors. We clearly had a bumpy ride throughout the year, but their commitment to each other and the sport made it all worth it. I think we laid the groundwork for better seasons to come.”
“Our two seniors led the team in every practice and every match. They both gave everything they had to our team and I know the rest of the girls appreciated it.”