“Overall, I thought they played really well today,” TC head coach Ron Burt said. “In each set, we got in one little spot in the set where they ran two or three or four points and they’d get up two or three points and we couldn’t catch back up. In the first set, we got up and they scored four or five points to get back to us and get a couple points ahead and we couldn’t get back at them. The third set was one for the ages. Point for point for point for point and the breaks weren’t with us tonight. But overall I thought the girls played really well. There were a couple little lapses, but overall I thought we played pretty well. Martin Methodist is a good, quality team. They have some good athletes, but I thought we handled them pretty well. I don’t like the loss; the way we lost is not bad. We were in every set. We fought right to the end.”
In the first set, TC jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, sparked by a point-saving dig by Avrielle Walker. The Lady Tornadoes fought their way to a 9-6 lead following a kill by Walker. However, Martin Methodist came back to tie the game at 12-12. The two teams traded points until Martin Methodist gained a 15-14 advantage and never let TC regain the lead, finishing on a 10-3 run for the win.
The second set was similarly close with both teams locked in an early 5-5 tie, before TC was charged with illegal contact with the net to give Martin Methodist a 6-5 lead. They retained a slim lead until TC managed to tie the game 18-18 following a Walker serve point. From there, Martin Methodist reeled off seven straight points for another set win.
The third and deciding set was easily the closest. Martin Methodist staked an early 4-1 lead, before TC charged back to take the lead 5-4. Following a Gabriel Bailey kill, the Lady Tornadoes held an 11-7 lead. Once again, Martin Methodist managed to regain the lead, 13-12. The Lady Tornadoes fought back to tie it at 16-16, at which point each team traded points for nearly the entire remainder of the game. With TC holding a 24-21 lead and going for game point, there was a serve error which allowed Martin Methodist to come back into the game eventually tying it 24-24. With Martin Methodist holding a 28-27 lead, Blaise Winterburn served for game point. Her teammate Gloria Watson made a kill to win the match.
“They’re offense hurt us at times,” Burt said. “We started off in one defense and they started tipping us and they weren’t reading it well enough. They were reading it, but they were a step behind the play so they weren’t quite getting to the ball. We need to do better at reading the tip to be able to pick it up. Also, when we have a big offensive threat like Gloria Watson, we have to try to neutralize her a little better. That’s why I tried to get them to time their block jump a little bit differently, but she’s a good athlete. You’re not going to stop her. You just have to try and contain her a little bit. In spurts, we did. But then when it came down to crunch time, they’d go to her. We knew they were going to go to her; it’s just she’s a good athlete and a good ball player and she put the ball down.”
Unofficially, Watson had 11 kills and two aces.
Despite three close set losses, TC was effective in distributing the ball. Zia Mose led the team with 14 kills, while Sarina Thompson was second with seven kills. Tanaira Rounds contributed six kills and KeShawna Ximines had five kills.
“I try to stress distributing the ball, so hopefully the other team doesn’t know who’s going to get the ball,” Burt said. “The more options we have on the front row, the more people that are able to terminate the ball, the more chances we have to make the kill. We had a lot of girls in the kill column. That’s what I look for.”
The Lady Tornadoes play again at Tornado Alley for a doubleheader Saturday. Action tips off at 1 p.m. against conference opponent Vorhees College and the team follows with Tennessee Temple slated to begin at 3 p.m.