Manchester rallies to down Whiteoak in five sets –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Senior night is always an emotional time for athletes, coaches, parents, and families and that was again the case on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at Manchester High School as the Lady Hounds’ volleyball squad played their last home match of the 2017 season. It was a night for the program to bid farewell to four graduating seniors- Katie Sandlin, Alyssa Hoskins, McKinlee Grooms, and Gabi Lainhart. On their Senior Night, the Lady Hounds were looking to avenge an earlier defeat at the hand of the evening’s guests, the Whiteoak Lady Wildcats.
In between the tears and emotions of the night, the Lady Hounds did accomplish their goals, they avenged the earlier defeat and picked up a Southern Hills Athletic conference win in their final appearance on the home court in 2017. It wasn’t easy though as the two teams battled for the full five sets before the Manchester girls rallied to pull off the win 23-25, 25-19, 22-25, 26-24, 15-6.
“That was a really good match,” said Manchester head coach Kaci Compton. “I’m proud of the girls with all of the changes we’ve made this season finding where everyone fits. It’s also good to finally have Abby McFarland back. The confidence and command that she brings really helps.”
With the senior Sandlin on the service line, the Lady Hounds took a quick 5-0 lead in the first set, in a match where neither side held more than a six-point lead the entire night. Whiteoak tallied five of the next seven points before a trio of service points by Brooke Kennedy put the home team up 11-5. Back again came the Lady Cats in a big way, with sophomore Kiley Bratton reeling off nine serves in succession to put the guests on top 15-11.
The theme for the match had certainly been set when the Lady Hounds got the side out and four service points from Hoskins to jump back in front 16-15. The two sides then traded points back and forth before the Lady Hounds used a pair of Lainhart serves to lead 23-22, but the final three points and the first set went to Whiteoak, 25-23.
It was the Lady Cats who took control early in the second set, taking a 10-4 advantage before the home team began to inch back into the set, finally tying things at 13 on a Sandlin service ace. With Madison Jones serving, the home team stormed back into the lead and never gave it away, winning the set 25-19 when an Abby McFarland serve hit the net and then dropped over to the Whiteoak side untouched for the final point.
Set three did not differ much from what had already been seen as the two teams were neck and neck most of the way. Momentum shifted numerous times as each side put together strings of service points, three by Manchester’s McFarland, four by Whiteoak’s Baylee Carey, three more by Sandlin, four from the Lady Cats’ Katie Ames, four by Kennedy for the home team, and finally three more from Whiteoak’s Bratton. All of that led to the Lady Cats leading 22-19 and after two perfectly placed tip returns caught the home team off guard, the visitors grabbed the third set 25-22.
Looking like they were primed to get things over with and board the bus for home, the Whiteoak squad raced to a 7-2 lead in the fourth set only to see Manchester bounce right back with a Hoskins kill and a quarter of Kennedy serves to tie the score. The run of back and forth service streaks continued, with Sandlin at the line giving the Lady Hounds a 16-15 advantage. Right back came the Lady Cats with five straight to go back up 20-16 and things were looking gloomy for the home team, but a resilient bunch of blue and gold decided to stick around for a while longer, pulling within 22-21 with Kennedy again serving.
An exchange of points gave Whiteoak a “match point” but Manchester’s Grooms had something to say about that, reeling off three service points to rally her team to a 26-24 win and force the decisive fifth and final set.
In that fifth set, the now inspired Lady Hounds took control early and never looked back, getting kills from Kennedy and Sandlin plus a series again of Grooms serves to cruise to a 15-6 win and make their Senior Night a successful one, coming from behind to win the match 3-2.
It is always a bittersweet time for a coach to send off their seniors in their final home night, and Coach Compton reflected on each of the four.
“Katie Sandlin is such a smart player,” said the MHS head coach. “She can find a hole and play it whenever she wants to. Alyssa has improved so much and is so reliable for us, if you set her the ball, she will do whatever she has to do to get that point.”
“McKinlee’s serve has improved tremendously over the course of the season, which certainly showed tonight. It was great for her to finish her Senior Night like that. Gabi plays with so much heart and gives her all every single time she is on the court.”