Coach Kendra Swafford’s first order of business after William Blount’s 11-25, 25-19, 13-25, 25-21, 11-15 loss to Hardin Valley was to encourage her players.
She didn’t want the Lady Governors (6-8, 1-2 District 3-AAA) to be distraught over Tuesday’s outcome. Instead, Swafford urged them to be proud of their performance. She certainly was. She was thrilled with how her defensive specialists sprinted back and forth to continue volleys, how her hitters swung hard at every ball and how her blockers were always in position to deflect Hardin Valley’s attacks.
She hopes the Lady Governors possess that same intensity the rest of the season.
“That’s one of the best games we played,” Swafford told the Daily Times. “We played really scrappy and I think that helped us. We got balls up that we sometimes don’t go for. To see that grit come out of my team was good. I told them not to hang their hat. If they keep playing like that, things will come together. They just have to trust that.”
The Lady Governors committed 12 errors in the first set. Before the second set, Swafford urged junior Gracie Love, one of the team leaders, to calm down. Love listened, and her teammates followed suit.
Love finished with 17 kills and 20 digs. Senior middle blocker Madison Jones registered 13 kills and three blocks. Senior libero Linsey Styles supplied 29 digs, while senior Abby Cross registered a double-double with 39 assists and 19 digs.
Jones wreaked havoc at the net in the second set with three blocks and two kills. Hardin Valley responded by dominating the third set. Still, the Lady Govs weren’t fazed. Trailing 5-4, Jones blocked another Hardin Valley attack, and Love followed with a kill. William Blount led the rest of the set. Whenever the Lady Hawks threatened to rally, Love, Jones or Lainey Priest (8 kills) delivered an answer. Jones sealed the set by rejecting another attack; Hardin Valley committed a double touch trying to dig it.
“I just want to play my heart out and play together with my team as long as I can until the season is over,” Jones said. “Each game we play we get better. We play as a team. We learn to communicate better and have better team chemistry.”
Jones opened the final set with another kill. Cross lofted a ball over Hardin Valley’s blockers for another point. Another Jones’ kill gave the Lady Govs a 5-2 lead.
The Lady Hawks capitalized when Jones left the rotation, scoring five straight to earn a 9-6 lead. The Lady Govs didn’t stop fighting, but couldn’t overcome the deficit. They will hope to build on Tuesday’s performance when they travel to county rival Maryville on Thursday.
“Once that (district) tournament starts, we have five teams in this district where it doesn’t matter who steps on the court, if you aren’t ready to play you are going to lose,” Swafford said. “I am not worried about us losing these district matches. I am really excited to see things coming together when the district tournament starts.