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Olive Branch beats Southaven for district title

OLIVE BRANCH - There's a first time for everything.

The Olive Branch Lady Quistors defeated the Southaven Lady Chargers in the championship round of the MHSAA Division 2 volleyball tournament Saturday 15-8, 15-11, marking the Lady Quistors' first-ever win over Southaven.

In the first round of division tourney play, Horn Lake beat Hernando 15-2, 15-5 while Oxford shut Lafayette down 15-9, 13-15, 15-9, Southaven beat South Panola 15-3, 15-1, and Olive Branch defeated Water Valley 15-1, 15-3.

The second round saw Olive Branch defeat Oxford 15-3, 15-8 while Southaven beat Horn Lake 15-8, 15-2 to end the Lady Eagles' seven-year run in the state playoffs.

Second seeded Olive Branch faced first seeded Southaven in the final match, and the first game started with the Lady Quistors gaining a lead that would last them throughout the first game.

Olive Branch took a quick 7-2 lead before a block by Southaven's Becky Getske, who had a total of 14 kills for the match, put the ball back into the Lady Chargers' hands and they managed to tie Olive Branch 7-7 on serves by Shelby Gaines, who had two aces and was 13 for 13 serving.

Olive Branch's Abby Dees served for the Lady Quistors while they increased their lead to 12-7, with some help by a block by Amanda Evans and a kill by Lialah Putman.

A kill from Southaven's Kasye Martin put Southaven back in charge of the ball, but a last second dig by Cat Baier put it back in Olive Branch's hands, where Baier served for the Lady Quistors last three points to beat Southaven 15-8.

Olive Branch head volleyball coach Greg Abernathy attributed their

performance to a change in defensive style.

"The defense is much better than it was, Amanda and Lialah are blocking everything that comes their way," he said. "Before we had the offense going, but now they're doing both offense and defense."

Abernathy, whose team will host a first-round state playoff game Saturday afternoon against a to-be-determined opponent, wasn't shocked that his team beat the first seeded Southaven.

"I'm confident in these girls," he said. "They just hustled and this is what we've been working for all year. They've wanted it so bad

all year, they've just been chomping at the bit."

Southaven head coach Allison Burchyett didn't expect an easy battle either. "I knew they would come to play and that's what they did," she said. "But, I think we can definitely come back from this. We're going to be working on our defense this week because that's where we really didn't play well."

The Lady Chargers will travel to Meridian on Saturday at 1 p.m. for their first-round state playoff game.

Curt Franklin/Times Sports Staff,© DeSoto Times 2002

Devils get revenge vs. Briarcrest
Germantown takes advantage of errors for Senior Night
victory
By Jim Masilak
masilak@gomemphis.com
October 2, 2002
Before they could have their cake Tuesday night, the
Germantown volleyball team had to get through the main course.
No. 2 Briarcrest was on the menu for the Lady Devils' Senior Night
festivities, and No. 3 Germantown wasted little time in serving
the visiting Lady Saints a 15-5, 15-11 defeat.
"Win or lose, we were gonna have a little cake and a party
afterward," said Germantown senior outside hitter Audrey Philip.
"Since we won, it's going to be an even bigger party.
"We came in with this attitude like we're gonna win. We were up
for it tonight."
The Lady Devils' commanding performance was a far cry from the
teams' first meeting this season, a 15-11, 15-13 Briarcrest victory
in August.
"When we played them previously, we were kind of weak,"
Germantown's Shelby Gilbert said. "I think we were really down
on ourselves. Deep down, we knew we weren't ready.
"This time we were physically and mentally ready."
Philip, who has emerged as a team leader this season after
serving previously as a backup, led the way for Germantown
(35-13) on Tuesday with 14 kills against Briarcrest (20-14).
"Her hitting has really improved, and her overall attitude has kept
us up," Gilbert said. "We've had our ups and downs, but we're
getting better."
Briarcrest coach Clare Boggess credited the Lady Devils for
jumping on her squad's errors.
"We missed too many serves. If you can't serve, you can't win,"
Boggess said. "You could tell they had something to get from us."
Germantown coach Barbara Whitaker said her team got a boost
from the nature of the occasion.
"With Senior Night, the momentum and everything seemed like it
went our way," Whitaker said. "But we were ready for them to
come back at any time.
"I'm proud of them all. I'm proud of the way they've stuck
together."
Harding 15-15, St. Benedict 7-7 at St. Benedict - Playing their
first game in a week, the well-rested Lady Lions cruised past the
Lady Eagles.
No. 1 Harding, behind the big hitting of Liz Lee and Katie
Westmoreland and boosted by the return of hitter Jaclyn Tepe
from a serious knee injury, showed little rust from their
self-enforced layoff.
Harding coach Tod Traughber, hoping a few days off would
refresh his squad, withdrew his team from last weekend's "play
day" at Arkansas State.
"I think it was the best thing," Traughber said. "We were
desperate for some (rest). I could tell we were really down
emotionally and physically."
Harding (35-6, 6-0 Division 2 West Large) certainly looked
recharged against No. 5 St. Benedict (18-8, 4-2).
"I was really thrilled with being able to establish ourselves early,"
Traughber said. "If we can play like this going into the region
tournament, I'll be very excited about how that's gonna go."
St. Benedict coach Angie Buchanan was impressed.
"Offensively, they overpowered us," Buchanan said.

Bartlett jells for district title run
ROUNDUP
By Jim Masilak
masilak@gomemphis.com
October 11, 2002
Sherrie Walker hardly recognized her Bartlett volleyball team.
After watching the Lady Panthers struggle with inconsistency
most of the season, Bartlett's dominant display Thursday in the
District 14-AAA tournament caught their coach by surprise.
"I asked them in the huddle, 'What did you do with my team? I
don't know, but I like you better,' " Walker said. "I'm tickled to
death by the way they played."
No. 5-ranked Bartlett (28-22) allowed just six points in two
matches Thursday. The Lady Panthers were nearly flawless in the
title match, beating Bolton, 15-0, 15-3.
In the semifinals, the Lady Panthers cruised past Munford, 15-1,
15-2. Bolton (23-16) beat Cordova, 6-15, 15-10, 15-12, to
advance to the final.
"This team has come from being almost a JV team to being one of
the best in the region," said Bartlett senior setter Dana DeMilt.
"Since we have just three seniors, everybody expected us to be
weak. But we're strong, and we're going to beat some good
teams."
Like Walker, Bolton coach Chad Stevens had a hard time seeing
the resemblance between this Bartlett team and the one that
struggled early.
With a lack of experience and no real setter - DeMilt was plugged
in at that position due to her all-around ability - Bartlett has had
problems setting up its offense. It seems, however, that the Lady
Panthers have put all that behind them.
"They've come a long way from the beginning of the year,"
Stevens said. "We talked this afternoon that, to beat them, you
have to be consistent because they're the most consistent team
around.
"They didn't let a ball drop."
After watching her team drop seven straight matches at the
Brentwood Invitational earlier this season, Walker wasn't sure
where Bartlett was headed.
"At that time," she said, "it was pretty depressing."
Somewhere along the line, the Lady Panthers started making
plays. Their ability to keep the ball in play frustrated both Bolton
and Munford on Tuesday.
"We all trust coach Walker," said Bartlett senior outside hitter
Libba Miller, who had six aces in the final. "We know she'll be
able to lead us where we want to go. We're working well
together. We were pumped up today."
Both Bartlett and Bolton advanced to Tuesday's Region 7-AAA
tournament, which the Lady Wildcats will host. The Lady
Panthers, though, won't be content with anything less than
another Class AAA state tournament appearance.
"We're not just going to state," DeMilt said. "We're gonna win
something when we get there."

Harding wins tough match
Lady Lions force decisive contest against Briarcrest
By Jason Smith, Special to The Commercial Appeal
October 16, 2002
A day off today to relax might be just what the Briarcrest
Christian and Harding Academy volleyball squads need after
battling each other in their second three-game match in as many
nights Tuesday during the Division 2 West Region tournament at
Harding.
The top-seeded Lady Lions, fresh off a disappointing loss to
Briarcrest Monday night in the third round of the
double-elimination tourney, forced a title-deciding match between
the same two teams Thursday after rallying Tuesday to beat the
Lady Saints, 15-12, 17-19, 15-12.
"We're big on the flair," Harding coach Tod Traughber said of the
Lady Lions' dramatic victory, which saw them rally from deficits of
5-1 and 9-6 in Game 3.
The Lady Lions had already allowed Briarcrest to come back from
a 7-0 hole in Game 2 to force the third game.
"We knew we had secured Game 1, so we relaxed a little bit and
we were not playing to win," Traughber said. "We were playing
not to lose. It's a matter of being aggressive."
Aggressive is what the Lady Lions weren't Monday night after
being whipped by Briarcrest, 15-4 and 15-8, in Games 2 and 3.
The difference for Harding Tuesday?
"Aggression and confidence," said senior Liz Lee, who led the
Lady Lions Tuesday with 14 kills. "We were up for tonight
because we wanted to win so bad. We've worked so hard, but
we kind of forgot that (Monday)."
Fellow senior Katie Westmoreland agreed with her teammate.
"We were so much more positive in this game. (Monday) we
didn't give up, but it felt like we almost did."
Briarcrest could've given up as well Tuesday night after dropping
Game 1 and trailing late in Game 2, but head coach Clare
Boggess rallied her team together.
"I said, 'Skill or luck?' " Boggess said. "And I told them, 'Skill.' I
have a lot of confidence in my girls and they have a lot of
confidence in themselves. We have one solid team, not just a
couple of players, but a solid team."
In earlier action Tuesday night, Harding avoided being eliminated
from the tournament by knocking off St. Benedict, 15-5, 15-9. All
three teams have already earned trips to next week's Division 2
state tournament in Murfreesboro.
"No offense to St. Benedict," Traughber said, "but they were a
great team for us to come in and get our juices flowing. It worked
out really nicely for us."

Area teams took different routes to state volleyball
EVERY TEAM HAS A STORY
By Jim Masilak
masilak@gomemphis.com
October 22, 2002
The Harding volleyball team isn't reeling, but it is regrouping.
After dominating most of the season, the Lady Lions experienced
a pair of hiccups in the Division 2 West Region tournament last
week, losing two out of three matches - and the title - to
Briarcrest.
On Sunday, the Lady Lions met at coach Tod Traughber's home to
refocus for what most consider to be a wide-open Division 2 state
tournament.
"There's no doubt we're not playing, not dominating, at the level
we have in the past," Traughber said. "We met at my house and
talked about goals. We're still in prime position to do what we
wanted at the beginning of the season."
Each of the five local teams participating in state volleyball
tournaments this week has beaten a distinct path to
Murfreesboro. The Class A-AA, AAA and Division 2 tournaments
begin Wednesday at the Murphy Center at Middle Tennessee
State.
Bartlett, Briarcrest and Germantown are all playing their best
volleyball of the season. St. Benedict and Harding each come in
off losses, but they too have reason for optimism.
While Harding established itself early as the class of
Shelby-Metro, the Lady Lions have struggled at times down the
stretch. The loss of senior outside hitter Jaclyn Tepe to a knee
injury hurt, but Harding, with standout senior middle blockers Liz
Lee and Katie Westmoreland has plenty of firepower to challenge
for Division 2 honors.
"We feel like it's right there, and it's our job to reach out and
grab it," Lee said. "We feel that if we play like we can, there's no
one who can beat us.
"It was good for us to lose, I think. We had a couple meetings
about it, and now we're ready to tackle state."
Briarcrest wasn't sure if it would ever be ready to take down
D2-rival Harding, which was 3-0 this season against the Lady
Saints prior to last week. Briarcrest, however, got over that
hurdle and now has a sunnier outlook toward the state
tournament.
"We think we have a better chance at the title than we did
before," Briarcrest senior middle blocker Kristen Morelli said. "We
were scared of (Harding), but we're not scared anymore. We had
a gut feeling we were the better team and that we would beat
them when it counted."
Briarcrest coach Clare Boggess said her team's breakthrough was
a result of believing it could be done.
"We just had to know we're a great team. Each of the girls had
to realize it," Boggess said. "I knew they had it in them. It was
up to them to figure it out."
It took Bartlett some time to realize it had the makings of a state
contender, but now the red-hot Lady Panthers have their sights
set on a title. Bartlett struggled early as it worked to replace
several of the players who led the team to a fifth-place finish last
year.
Now, after district and region tournament victories and an
impressive sectional win over Collierville, coach Sherrie Walker's
team is eagerly awaiting its return trip to the Class AAA
tournament.
"We've been there before, and this year we feel we have a
chance to win state," junior Nikki Mosley said. "At the beginning
of the year, no one thought we were gonna go anywhere. Now
everyone's optimistic."
St. Benedict might be going to the D2 tournament as the
third-place team from the West Region, but Lady Eagles coach
Angie Buchanan said that's no small feat for her young team.
"It is an accomplishment to get out of our region, which is
probably the toughest in the area," Buchanan said.
While the Lady Eagles didn't qualify for state a year ago,
Buchanan's squad played a taxing regular-season schedule and
will try to use its experience of facing tough opposition on a
regular basis to its advantage.
"We're very excited. The older kids are happy to be going, and it
will be great experience for my five sophomores," Buchanan said.
"There's no pressure on us at all."
Germantown, meanwhile, is making its 18th straight
state-tournament appearance. The Lady Devils made it to the
Class AAA tournament even though their top player, Katie Tigert,
transferred to Houston prior to the season.
"At the beginning of the year, it was kind of scary," Germantown
senior middle hitter Julie Holland said. "Our main player kind of
bailed on us.
"The pressure was on this year. In past years, Katie was here,
and we kind of hid behind her. We needed to show we could play
without her."
A win over Briarcrest late in the regular season convinced the
Lady Devils they could play with the best. That confident,
free-flowing play is what Germantown coach Barbara Whitaker
wants to see from her squad this week.
"My hope is that they have the same kind of spirit and
enthusiasm they had when they played Briarcrest," Whitaker
said. "If they do, they should be a top contender."
To win its first state title since 1990, Germantown will have to
unseat Brentwood, the four-time defending champion in Class
AAA.
"They're the team everyone is gunning for," Whitaker said. "It's
time for everyone to get their act together and play like they've
never played before."
- Jim Masilak: 529-2311