Blount Press Row

‘Lady Mustangs, you know!’

Heritage Middle volleyball becomes school’s third county champion

Head coach Jason Jacklet leads the celebration as the Lady Mustangs cut loose in the post-match huddle. Photos by Cindy Nowlin

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Here’s a stat for you.

Grayson Fleming, Nikki Morgan, Lexi Patty and Harley Romines didn’t record a service error for the tournament.

Not the championship matchup with top-seed Maryville. The whole thing.

Tournament most valuable player Kelsey Woods (8) closes on the net as Maryville's Evan Harper returns serve.

Tournament most valuable player Kelsey Woods (8) closes on the net as Maryville’s Evan Harper returns serve.

A steady hand at the service line had a lot to do with it as Heritage Middle turned back Maryville Junior High, 25-19, 25-17, in the championship match of the Blount County Middle School Volleyball Tournament on Tuesday at Union Grove.

With the title, volleyball (22-3) joins softball and baseball to become Heritage Middle’s third county champion this school year.

“They just fought hard,” Lady Mustangs coach Jason Jacklet said. “We’ve had 14 girls injured or miss games, and they’ve just continued to fight and work together.”

The finale was the third meeting of night for the tournament’s top two seeds, the Lady Mustangs prevailing, 25-20, 25-21, in what proved an all-important winner’s bracket final.

Raven MaJors and Nikki Morgan signal victory.

Raven Majors and Nikki Morgan signal victory.

The host and sixth-seeded Lady Wildcats pushed the Lady Rebels the three full sets in the loser’s bracket final. The scare had the Lady Rebels plenty motivated for the rematch with Heritage, all-tournament selections Evan Harper at the middle blocker and Miranda Wyatt outside hitter coming up with big shot after big shot as Maryville beat back elimination, 25-20, 22-25, 15-8.

“We just tried to think about how hard we’d fought to get here,” Harper said.

“You have to keep your head in the game,” Wyatt said. “You have to stay focused.”

In the Heritage huddle between games, Jacklet said he told the Lady Mustangs to put the loss behind them as quickly as possible.

“I told them, ‘Calm down,’” he said. “‘We made some mistakes. If we take care of that, we’ll be OK.’”

That did the trick, all-tournament selection Emma Whitehead said.

“We said, ‘It’s a clean slate,’” she said. “‘Whatever they’ve done doesn’t matter. We can still play hard and everyone just has to try your best.’”

In the tie-breaker that followed, tournament most valuable player Kelsey Woods led Heritage home.

Maryville's Jordan Vinegar, Mackenzie Jackson, Riley McKinney and Evan Harper, left to right, talk things over between games on Tuesday at Union Grove Middle.

Maryville’s Jordan Vinegar, Mackenzie Jackson, Riley McKinney and Ava Eriksson, left to right, talk things over between games on Tuesday at Union Grove Middle.

With the score at 16-14 Heritage in the night’s final set, the Lady Mustangs surged, opening a 20-14 advantage before a Maryville timeout. Hitting efficiency opened the gap to eight when play resumed.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” Maryville coach Kristi Dunkel said. “They fought hard. I think we just ran out of gas.”

Whitehead had 23 kills out of a possible 55 chances for the tournament, Woods 18 service aces and 45 assists. Kaitlyn Wilkerson, nine aces, Raven Majors, six, Gabby Grant six, two blocks, eight kills, Katlin Burger, eight kills in 35 attacks, were indicative of a Heritage team with a lot to draw on as the night waned. Laurel Snow and Joslyn Barton stood out keeping the ball in play on the back line.

“We’ve had several players step up,” Jacklet said.

Heritage Middle School Lady Mustangs
2016 Blount County Volleyball Champions

Emily Cable, Laurel Campbell, Chloe Enfinger, Karley Lasorsa, Trinity Anderson, Joslyn Barton, Katlin Burger, Love Edwards, Grayson Fleming, Alexis Patty, Harley Romines, Larel Snow, Kaitlyn Wilkerson, Vallie Comstock, Julie Gibson, Gabby Grant, Raven Majors, Nikki Morgan, Emma Whitehead, Kelsey Woods.

Head coach: Jason Jacklet
Assistant coaches: Savannah Bradburn, Madison Wilkerson, Sharee Green
Manager: Janice Summey

One Comment

  1. Russell Whitehead

    May 6, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    It’s been a pleasure watching these girls play this year. The Lady Mustangs JV volleyball team also won their Blount County Tournament and were undefeated (13-0) for the season. Thanks to Coach Jacklet and Coach Green for their hard work.

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