In the first volleyball matchup of the season between cross-county rivals, adrenaline and nerves mixed together to produce some great moments and some that both teams would like to forget.
In the end, the Henry County Lady Cats came out on top at home against the Eminence Warriors 3-1. While the scores of each game were close, at least three of the games seemed headed for blowout city before the trailing team rallied to make it close.
The first game was the exception as neither team led by more than five points. The high adrenaline was reflected when several serves and hits sailed out of bounds. But there also were solid kills, digs and serves.
Eminence took control of the game scoring five straight points to go up 12-7, including three aces by Mesha Cooper and a nice tip by Brie Prewitt.
But the Lady Cats weren’t rattled and slowly found their way back into the match.
The teams traded points until Henry County went ahead at 24-23. With Marcum serving for game point, Megan Payton had a block giving the Lady Cats the first game.
Henry went on a 5-point run to take a 5-1 lead in the second game, mainly on the strength of net play by Payton, who had two blocks and a kill.
But with Henry up 6-3, Emily Coomes stepped up to serve. In a 13-point run, Coomes had 9 aces, as Henry County struggled to return her sharply angled serves. The Warriors appeared headed to a comfortable win.
Yet again, the Lady Cats did not fold and worked their way back into the game. With the score at 17-8, Destany Crawford had a key block starting a 5-0 run for Henry. Kim Barmore served 3 aces in the run along with a kill by Krista Deburger.
With the score 19-13, Tiffany Thomas had two aces to stretch the lead back to 8 points. Henry County inched its way back into the game and at 23-17 Deburger got three consecutive aces to make it 23-20. On Deburger’s next serve, EHS set Cooper up for a big kill to stop the rally and Coomes aced to win the game 25-20.
Henry regained momentum in the third game and went up 11-4 on the strength of good net play and serving by Payton who had two kills and three aces early.
From there the Lady Cats maintained a lead of at least five points until they were up 21-13.
But it was the Warriors’ turn to show resolve and battle their way back into the game. With Coomes serving, the Warriors won a point after a long rally that ended when Henry hit the ball into the net. After a hit by Payton sailed long, Lady Cats Coach Katie Ruff called timeout, sensing a run by the Warriors.
The timeout didn’t pay off, as Eminence came back with a Coomes ace and a kill by Thomas that narrowed the margin to 21-17.
After the next EHS kill sailed long, the teams traded long serves out of bounds as the adrenaline got the best of them.
At 23-18, Cooper got a kill and followed it with an ace to break the cycle and narrow the margin to 3 points. After a net serve, the Cats regained the serve and looked to close the game, but Henry bumped out and Eminence still had life.
Serving at 21-24, the Warriors got a big kill by Brie Prewitt who then followed that with a tip after a long rally that made it 24-23. Henry County again called timeout, hoping to hold on to their slim lead and close out the game. After the timeout Eminence set up for the kill but the ball sailed long and Henry County won the third game, 25-23.
In the fourth game, neither team could get the upper hand, until a key run came with the score tied at 11.
After a net serve by Eminence, Deburger served up an ace and the crucial moment in the game. Mesha Cooper, went up for the kill and hammered the ball hard into Henry’s court, but Deburger was able to dig the ball and Molly Williamson put it over the net where it fell to the floor.
The play energized the Cats and deflated the Warriors as Henry scored 9 more points before losing the serve. The game appeared to be over but Eminence again stiffened and fought their way back from what should have been a demoralizing run.
Coomes served two aces as the Warriors reeled off 4 points to make it 23-16 before losing the serve.
At 24-16 the Cats could not finish it off and Gailynn Carroll got the serve. After a Carroll ace, a Henry hit sailed long and Thomas tipped to make it 24-20. After another ace by Carroll the Cats called timeout as their lead was melting away. After the timeout, an EHS tip hit the top of the net and rolled down to the floor on Eminence’s side of the court to end the exciting rivalry match.
Ruff was pleased with her team’s mental toughness. “We played as a team, and no one got their heads down,” she said. “No matter what happened or who made a mistake we got right back to work and fought the whole way to win.
I think the biggest change from previous matches was attitude and teamwork. We finally played as a team instead of individuals out there on the court. I was impressed with the girls’ effort and attitude the entire time.”
EHS coach Stephanie Barrows was complimentary of the Wildcats.
“I think Henry County played well,” she said. “They came ready to play and that is why they won.”
Barrows was less enthusiastic about her team’s performance. “I don’t think the team showed up,” she said. “The only game that they came ready to play was the third game that they won. The girls got very mental and did not play well at all.”