As the night got later and the points got more meaningful, William Blount volleyball coach Kendra Swafford couldn’t help but reminisce.
Seven years ago she was the one wearing a uniform as the Lady Governors tried to beat Farragut, and she remembers vividly how it felt to be part of the first team in school history to taste victory against the Lady Admirals.
After a stirring performance in the decisive set on Thursday night there finally is a new group of William Blount volleyball players that also knows how sweet it is.
The Lady Governors started strong, dipped in the middle and then rallied when it mattered most to defeat Farragut 25-17, 25-19, 17-25, 17-25, 15-10.
The last time William Blount (12-3, 2-0 District 3-AAA) beat Farragut (8-4, 0-1) was in 2012. Swafford was a senior and was given the game ball for having a perfect serving performance. She still has that ball and keeps it in a memory room.
That’s why it mattered so much to be the coach who guided the Lady Governors to their next victory over Farragut.
“It was a great to see my girls did not stop fighting. I love that,” Swafford said. “These best 3-out-of-5 games are really long, and it can get really tiring. They pushed to the end. I am very proud of them for going that far.
“It was very intense and they didn’t let any of that rattle them or think, ‘We’ve only beaten them one time in history.’ They didn’t think about that. They just thought this is another game and his is our home court.”
Unlike in the third and fourth sets when they gave up their lead, the Lady Governors started fast in the fifth. A pair of Farragut attack errors preceded a block by senior outside hitter Jenna Forster, and a Farragut net violation gave William Blount a 4-0 lead.
Farragut kept it close by winning five of the next eight points, but the Lady Governors stole the momentum for good by reeling off six of the next seven for a 13-6 lead. In that run, Forster and middle blocker Emily Ellsworth had one kill apiece, and outside hitter Gracie Love had an ace.
The Lady Governors refused to let their drop in form during the third and fourth sets overtake them with the match on the line. They regrouped and rode a raucous home crowd to victory.
“The big part is we had already won those first two sets so we really knew that we could beat this team if we put our heart and soul into it,” said junior setter Abby Cross, who had 35 assists and six digs. “The third and fourth set, we knew we weren’t playing bad. We just needed to play smarter, not harder. We really showed that in the fifth set and we were able to finish.”
Forster led the team with 19 kills and 18 digs, and setter Abby Cross had 35 assists and six digs. Libero Rachel Kessler paced the defense with 22 digs, and Madison Coffey had seven kills and six digs.
The victory did more than snap a losing streak to Farragut. It proved to the Lady Governors that there really is something to their upward trajectory.
They had a sub-.500 record last season and finished fifth in the district during the regular season. Their hot start this year has them believing bigger things are possible. Winning a district championship and qualifying for the regional tournament is on their mind, but they’re doing their best not to look too far ahead.
It’s a testament to Swafford, who was promoted from assistant to head coach two weeks before this season began. The top item on her agenda was to improve the players’ morale.
“Our confidence has been boosted this season,” Forster said. “We’ve all bonded this year. It feels like this is the closest we’ve ever been. Our new coach has pushed us to limits we’ve never been pushed to before.”