The Wildcats were successful in pulling off a huge upset against Horseshoe Bend volleyball on Wednesday, 3-1.
Benjamin Russell (14-13, 0-4) has been inconsistent throughout the season, but according to coach Magan Ford, the Wildcats played some of their best ball Wednesday and she has been waiting to see that kind of performance all season.
“I saw the grit and consistency we have been trying to get all season,” Ford said. “I’ve known they’ve had the ability to do it, but to see them break through that barrier and see it for themselves, it’s where we want to be going into area play next week.”
As for the Generals (28-4, 6-0), they were not their normal, aggressive selves, often just sending the ball over and letting Benjamin Russell set up Timira Lawson for an avalanche of spike attempts, which was the difference in Wednesday night’s game. Caly Carlisle is usually the aggressor for the Generals with her hustle and athleticism but she wasn’t her normal self until the game was out of hand.
“We just didn’t play up to par,” Horseshoe Bend coach Julie Turner said. “We were not ourselves. It was more of a mental thing and we couldn’t drag ourselves out of it. We were stuck in the mud.”
Horseshoe Bend put up a fight, losing 25-20 in the first set and 25-21 in the second set before settling down and taking complete control of the third set, winning 25-15. Down two sets to one, the Generals came out and jumped on the Wildcats early for what was going to be a 2-2 game tied going into the fifth set when Benjamin Russell decided to get back in it for the 25-23 set win over the Generals and winning the game 3-1.
A big reason for the Wildcat win on Wednesday was Ford’s decision to bring up freshman Kennedy Tate from the junior varsity team and let her set up Timira Lawson and Laura Thames on the front line for kill attempts.
“We pulled her up from JV and she came into her own Wednesday night,” Ford said. “She took control of the game and was the quarterback on our team. For her to only be a freshman and play as hard as she did and as well as she did is very promising for our future.”
According to Ford, winning against Horseshoe Bend was a big deal toward building confidence going into next week’s area play, especially with the inconsistency the Wildcats have been playing with throughout the season.
“This game was huge,” Ford said. “I’ve been telling our girls we are right on the cusp of doing something great. This is going to give us the jump we need at practice to prepare to fight and beat Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka in the area tournament.”
Despite going 24-0 then finishing the season 4-4, Turner believes Wednesday night’s loss and the losses at last weekend’s tournament has made her team battle tested going into the area playoffs next week.
“Of course this isn’t the way we wanted to end the season,” Turner said. “We are going to work on quickness and footwork at practice but really just get ourselves mentally prepared to start a new season next week.”
Horseshoe Bend begins area tournament play next Tuesday as it takes on Vincent. Benjamin Russell begins area play Tuesday as well when it takes on Stanhope Elmore.