Following Spring Garden’s 3-1 loss to the Lady Tigers back on Sept. 4, Carroll changed some things and moved some players around at practice in hopes of defending better against Cedar Bluff.
It turns out Carroll was right – on both his feeling and his maneuvers.
Spring Garden was able to outlast the Lady Tigers 25-12, 19-25, 22-25, 25-17 and 17-15 to improve to 13-12 (3-1 area) on the season. Cedar Bluff dropped to 10-10 (2-1 area).
“The girls have really been pushing lately,” Carroll said. “They’ve really tried to step up their game and do some things out of the box they haven’t done before. They’re really trying to get better.”
Asked what he felt made the difference Tuesday, Carroll replied: “We kept playing.”
“We came in and had almost a three-hour practice yesterday (Monday), doing situational, game-like stuff like pushing to the corner, going to the line, tipping over the block. We knew they’d double-block. They spread the defense out, and we knew the middle would be open. I think that made a difference.”
Spring Garden jumped out to the early advantage by taking game one, but Cedar Bluff rallied to take the next two and appeared to be on its way to another 3-1 match win.
That’s when Carroll talked to his players about making a push, and they responded with wins in game four and a thriller in game five.
In the fifth game, neither team had more than a two-point advantage. The game was tied 11 times, with the last being at 15.
Spring Garden captured the final two points, with the last coming on a backhanded kill by Haley Motes. Motes finished with 14 kills and five aces.
“Our match with Spring Garden is always a battle,” Cedar Bluff coach Tiffany Ferguson said. “They’re really good at defense, especially tonight. It seemed like no matter what we hit, they found a way to get it up and back over.
“I have to hand it to Spring Garden. I don’t know what they’ve done, but their serves are a lot tougher than the last time we saw them.”
But most frustrating, Ferguson said, was the Lady Panthers’ ability to keep the ball up.
“You think you made a good swing, then it comes right back over,” she said. “It can get you frustrated, and it kind of plays on you mentally, too. You don’t want to be the one out there that messes up this long rally after your teammates have worked so hard.
“That’s one thing we’ve got to work on, mental toughness. I need all my players to be determined to be the one to end that play. I felt like there were times we were trying to be too safe. There were times where we were trying to hit a smart shot and it just didn’t work out for us.”
Audrianna Hargitt led the Lady Tigers with 31 kills, 34 digs, five aces, three blocks and an assist. Hannah Leach had 15 kills, 21 digs, four assists and an ace. Abby Storey contributed 11 kills, 38 digs, two assists and an ace. Paige Bryant came away with 22 digs and five aces. Raveen McElrath managed 42 assists, 24 digs and a pair of kills.
Jasmine Adams added four digs, four assists, two blocks and a kill. Marigrace Wilson had three digs, a kill, a block and an assist. Brooke Wood finished with four assists and a dig.
Darby Bryant contributed 24 assists and 14 digs for the Lady Panthers. Dallas Smith added nine kills. Madison Sides came away with eight kills and four aces. Emory Reedy tallied five kills and three aces. Jacqueline Haney finished with four digs.
“I can’t stress enough how proud I am of them,” Carroll said. “They wanted it. It’s something they haven’t done in a while. It was fun, but we’ve got to build on it.”