Though the Region 7AAA Championship match got off to a less-than-ideal start than the Lady Choctaws and head coach Shanna O’Bright would have liked, it was the ending which made all the difference in the world as Dyer County rallied to take the next two sets then, after coming up just short of clinching the match in four frames, dominated the fifth and final set to win the program’s first-ever region title in volleyball in Newbern on Tuesday night.
O’Bright shared what she told her Lady Choctaws after Dyer County dropped the opening set of the title match to Clarksville 25-13.
“I just told them that they had worked way too hard to give up like this,” the Lady Choctaws’ head coach said. “They needed to relax and play our game.
“We needed to not play scared. We needed to attack the ball and find the corners and find ways to score. To be intelligent with what we are trying to do with the ball and don’t force it.”
Clarksville, though, controlled the tempo of the early stages of the second set much like they did the first. But, the Lady Choctaws rallied midway through the set only to fall behind 20-15 late. But, a late Maggie Bartlett ace gave Dyer County its first lead of the night at 23-22. Clarksville tied it back up and kept it close before a well-placed Cammy Lynn return set up set point on the way to a 26-24 win by the Lady Choctaws to tie the match at a set apiece.
Dyer County fell behind early in the third set, 12-8 before a strong run by the Lady Choctaws was capped by a Gracie McVay tip and two aces from Payton Hinson to give Dyer County a 14-12 lead. Clarksville battled back and retook the lead briefly before a pair of Katelyn Anderson kills turned the tables, as a Hill kill and a pair of aces from Bartlett – the second capping a 6-0 run – sealed the 25-20 win in the third set.
Clarksville rallied during what started out as a back-and-forth fourth set, taking a lead by as much as five points late at 22-17. But, a block and a kill from Hill along with a Lynn kill cut the deficit to two. After a Lady Wildcat point, kills from Lynn and Hill tied the game before Clarksville escaped with a pair of quick points to take the fourth set 25-23 and force a deciding fifth set.
“After we won the second set I told them ‘not only did you lose the first set but you played from behind most of the second set,’” O’Bright said. “That’s the hard one to win.
“Now we had to keep the momentum and keep pushing. And, we fell short in the fourth set, but not for lack of effort.”
Clarksville jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead causing O’Bright to take a timeout. Her powwow with the Lady Choctaws worked as Dyer County erupted with a dozen unanswered points to take a commanding lead at 12-3. A pair of Anderson kills got the Lady Choctaws to match point before a late return by the Lady Wildcats came up just short to give Dyer County its first-ever region title in volleyball via the 15-5 fifth-set win.
“That one was fun,” O’Bright said of the fifth set. “Once we changed sides and we were talking about the fifth set to start, they knew they had it in them.
“They knew what they were capable, they knew what they had to do and they knew they had to execute.”
O’Bright added with the size the Lady Wildcats had at couple positions, her team needed to be smart with the ball as they will face a very similar situation on Thursday in the Class AAA Sectional match at home – another first for the Lady Choctaws.