“First of all, my hat is off to Brantley,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “They are a school that has championships in all sports. We went up two games to zero, that particular spirit and fight and the heart of the champion showed for the next two games. So hats off to them. As far as our team, I stressed to our girls all the hard work that they put in the summer; in their volleyball highlight film, they were running sleds. They made a commitment in the summer, even the girls that had other things to do, they still found the time to put in volleyball time.
“This group of seniors has been together roughly four years, and they just had to fight through that small adversity that they had to pull it out. This team broke their own record as far as being the first Sweet 16 team last year. Now, they have broken their own record again. They are the first team to go to the Elite 8 tournament. “
The Lady Bulldogs of Winterboro won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-17. Brantley refused to go without a fight, as they rallied to force a fifth set.
The Lady Bulldogs of Brantley jumped out to a 10-3 lead in third set behind the strong play of Madline Driggers and Amenhni Upshaw. Brantley scored four points off Driggers’ serve and Upshaw recorded two kills and a block. Winterboro cut the Brantley lead to 10-6, but Brantley went on a 15-2 run to end the third set. Smith pulled his starters midway through the run to allow them to rest and get prepared for the fourth set.
In the fourth set, Winterboro fought back from an early deficit. Jasmine Richardson’s kill cut Brantley’s lead to 13-9. Four straight points off the serve of Winterboro’s Chanel Phillips tied the game at 13-13. Brittany McGhee took over for Winterboro down the stretch. She scored six straight points on her serve, which included an ace, to give Winterboro a 22-17 lead. But
Winterboro was unable to seal the deal. Winterboro led 24-21, but a serving error cut their lead to 24-22. Kelsey Hall scored straight four points off of her serve, which allowed Brantley to win the set and force a fifth and decisive set.
Brantley took an early 8-6 lead, but Winterboro battled back behind the strong play of their seniors. Tiffany Vincent cut the lead to 8-7, and then Richardson towered over the net to get a kill to tie the game at 8-8. McGhee once again caused problems for Brantley with her clutch serves.
The senior scored five straight points off of her serve to gain a 13-9 advantage. Brantley fought their way back into the game, but this time their comeback attempt fell short as Winterboro held on to win 15-13.
“Jasmine Richardson and Tiffany Vincent made some good plays,” Smith said. “Brittany McGhee finished the game off with some good controlled serves. That what seniors should be able to do, make decisions based on their experience. She did that.
“I have to thank the fans that came supported us today and yesterday. That means a lot of our kids; when the fans are behind us, they can do a lot. I feel like this success that I have been able have here with the girls program with a little bit of heart and desire, the fans support, team support , my assistant coach Cook and coach Vincent, all of that came together to get to one of our goals.”
Richardson led Winterboro with six kills and four assists.
Vincent was proud of the way the Lady Bulldogs came together with their backs against the wall in the fifth set.
“It is very exciting to achieve this accomplishment,” Vincent said. ”We didn’t want this to be our last game, so we came out and won it. We worked together as a team, we communicated and we stayed positive. We didn’t want this to be our last game.”
The Lady Bulldogs will go into the Elite 8 as the fourth seed out of the South Bracket.
Winterboro dropped both of their final two games to determine their seed in the Elite 8. The Lady Bulldogs fell in straight sets to St. Luke (25-10, 25-10, 25-16).
“They are a pretty good team and program,” Smith said. “You use those games, knowing what you know on paper, to see how do you match up with those particular teams. We didn’t even put our best foot forward; they pretty much dictated our whole game. I understand that we have made some great strides, but that is not our ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to go as far as you can go and play for a Regional championship. Now we are out of position to do that, so now we have to play for third and fourth seed. Volleyball is a game of forward thinking and I just don’t feel like we played our A or B game for this particular game against St. Luke.
In the consolation game, Winterboro fell to Jefferson Christian (25-22, 25-20, 25-13) to finish fourth in the South Super Regional Tournament.
Winterboro takes on Addison on Wednesday at 1 or 3 p.m. at the Birmingham CrossPlex.