Sectional championships continued to pile up in the county last week as the Manchester volleyball team got in on the action when the Lady Hounds won their first sectional in 15 years by beating Whiteoak in straight sets on the home court in Manchester.
“It feels amazing,” Manchester head coach Tabitha Spires said. “The last time we won sectionals I was on the team.”
There was plenty of energy to be found in the gymnasium as the game began on the right foot for the Greyhounds. Senior Morgan Johnson had a long tip fall in for a kill to open up the game and the team erupted with a huge “Boom!” in celebration. An ace by senior Summer Wilbur and a few more kills and Manchester quickly jumped out to a 6-1 lead.
“We came out with a huge amount of energy,” Spires said. “You could just tell our girls were ready to play tonight.”
While White Oak was able to cut the lead to 10-6 and 19-13 at certain points but multiple aces and hits by the Lady Cats that went sailing out of play meant the first set was never in real jeopardy for the home side and back-t0-back aces by Johnson that got the better of Wildcat senior Kayla Smallwood gave MHS the 25-13 first set victory.
Things initially started off well for the Wildcats in set number two when senior Emma Wardlow had multiple strong serves to jump out to a 4-1 lead, but a healthy dose of Johnson for Manchester was the key as usual for righting the ship as a long set by her gave the Greyhounds a 5-4 advantage and it quickly got out of hand from there.
Manchester got up to 9-4 after a kill by senior Kayla Wagoner found the back-left corner of the court, forcing a Whiteoak timeout. A soft kill later in the set by senior Cassidy Spires brought it to 14-6 but from there the Greyhounds found a higher gear as senior McKayla Smith went off for a seemingly endless amount of serves and a 17-8 lead turned into a 24-8 lead very quickly.
“McKayla had her best game of the season,” Spires said. “She knows her job on the team is to serve and she was unstoppable tonight.”
The bleeding finally was put to a stop by Wardlow when she was able to manage a kill for the Lady Cats but there was no hope of a monstrous comeback as MHS ended the set on the next play for a 25-9 win and a 2-0 set lead.
Whiteoak was not to go down swinging without a fight in the final set after two aces by Wilbur put Manchester up 4-0 in the third set. Things got dicey for the Greyhounds after a soft kill by Cassidy Spires had it looking like it was all but over at 13-5, but after a timeout, the visitors came out playing their best volleyball of the evening.
The Lady Cats began chipping away at the lead and a 13-5 lead became 16-12 and 17-14. Another ace by Wilbur put MHS up 20-14 but things unraveled from there. Johnson had back-to-back errors, a hit into the net by freshman Abby McFarland and a kill by Whiteoak and the score stood even at 20-20.
The score continued to go back and forth but Whiteoak would not give up even after an ace by Johnson to make it 24-22. Two errors by Johnson tied it back at 24 but after a ball by Whiteoak hit the post, it set up Cassidy Spires who finished the game off with a kill, sending the team and crowd into celebration mode.
The district tournament is up next for the Lady Hounds. Their district-semifinal game against Eastern Meigs will take place Thursday, Oct. 29 at Jackson High School. Manchester will play the second game that evening with the first game taking place at 6 p.m. Admission is $6 which does not include a fee for parking.
Reach Charles Grove at 937-544-2391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.