Tessa Philpot tasted her first head coaching win two days before the Altamont varsity volleyball tournament, only hoping more will come.
She – and the Lady Indians – would pull it off, battling for the title match before falling to Armstrong in three sets.
After the match, Philpot said she was happy with her team’s fight despite several issues she will have to deal with.
“I’m proud of the way they fought. There were times, though, where they just shut down mentally, which killed us,” Philpot said. “They would make mistakes and then dwell on those mistakes. Also, with our serve-receive, for whatever reason, we have this deal where we get into a serve-receive rut, and we get stuck while the “Other team gets point after point. But, without those things, the effort my ladies showed today, I couldn’t be prouder of that.”
The Lady Indians opened the tournament by tying Greenville in their opener. Altamont won the first set 24-22 and lost the second 15-21. Tournament guidelines state that no match during the pool round will go to a third set, with each set ending at 21.
After the tie, the Lady Indians responded with straight-set wins, beating first eventual champion Armstrong (22-20, 21-19) and then Heritage (21-14, 21-15).
With their two wins and a draw, the Lady Indians earned themselves the No. 1 seed ahead of the tournament, where they first faced Nokomis – who played his primary school pool game competition in ‘Altamont.
The Lady Indians opened the game in dominant fashion, winning 25-13, highlighted by Altamont being the beneficiary of 14 errors from Nokomis’ side.
While the first set was one-sided, the second was not.
Nokomis and Altamont battled it out to the bitter end, with neither team able to hold a lead.
The Lady Indians led by as much as six points before Nokomis replied, eventually leveling the set, 18-18.
Altamont, however, salvaged seven of the next 11 points to win the game 25-22 and qualify for the championship.
However, Armstrong didn’t let the home side win a second consecutive encounter.
Armstrong won the first set 22-15, with Philpot remarking that her side weren’t playing in their usual style, which she addressed between sets.
“I told them we weren’t playing at our own pace; we were going on concrete,” Philpot said. “Our feet were stuck and we couldn’t get the ball up when receiving the serve. Our swings, we weren’t swinging all the way; it was like we stopped at the top and then slammed, it was ‘t a fluid movement, so I reminded them that we had to play at our own pace.”
Everything Philpot said to them during that brief intermission would show on the court as Altamont won the second set 25-22, forcing a deciding third set.
Peyton Osteen started the third with an ace to make it 1-0. Altamont then tacked on another point shortly after to make it 2-0 before Armstrong rallied on the next three points to take a 3-2 lead.
Altamont then responded with a three-point swing to make it 5-3 before Armstrong salvaged seven of the next eight points to make it 10-6, forcing Philpot to call a timeout.
Needing only five points to win the championship, Armstrong finally got that, but not without a fight.
The Lady Indians cut the lead to two points, 13-11, and then once again, to 14-12, before Armstrong ended the game, winning the set 15-12.
STULTS AND SYFERT LEAD CUMBERLAND TO THIRD PLACE
Besides Altamont’s tournament success, Cumberland head coach Kylee Booth was also pleased with his team’s efforts.
The Lady Pirates finished the tournament 3-1-1. In pool, Cumberland beat Vandalia in straight sets (21-10, 21-15) and Cerro Gordo in straight sets (21-17, 23-21) and tied with Nokomis after losing the first set 16-21 and winning the second. 21-17.
Cumberland then lost in the first pool match to eventual champion Armstrong in three sets (22-25, 25-18, 12-15) before earning third place after beating Nokomis in three sets (16-25, 25-17, 15-9).
“They played well today. We had a few ups and downs but overall we saw a lot of improvement from the start,” Lady Pirates head coach Kylee Booth said. “Our communication is better. Our passing has improved; we’re passing more on target, and our footwork, moving downfield and defending are much stronger now than just two weeks ago, so in Overall, I’m really happy with their performance.”
Megan Yaw finished the tournament with 31 assists, two aces and 16 digs. McKenzie Matteson had two kills, two blocks and 10 digs. Emi Stierwalt had 30 assists, four kills, two blocks, four aces and 32 digs. Isabel Martinez had three aces and five digs. Katelyn Shoemaker had 14 kills and seven blocks. Chaney Thornton had three assists, one kill, 10 blocks, four aces and 41 digs, and Ashton Coleman had one assist, 13 kills and two digs.
The two who impressed Booth the most, however, were two starters who saw court time in the Lady Pirates Section Final a season ago.
Kennedy Stults finished with 23 kills, four blocks, 11 aces and 27 digs, while Kendyn Syfert – an Effingham Daily News All-Area first-team selection a season ago – finished with one assist, 25 kills decisive, five blocks, an ace and 54 digs.
“They leave it in the field,” Booth said. “They tasted success last year, know what success is and leave everything they have on the ground. It’s good to have that leadership in the team.”
So far this season, Stults has totaled 44 kills, 19 aces, 56 digs, one assist and five blocks, while Syfert has tallied two assists, 47 kills, seven blocks, 71 digs and six aces.