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Chiefland High volleyball players quietly wiped away tears and gathered up their belongings as Union County celebrated winning the Class 1A, District 7 Championship with a 3-1 victory against the Lady Indians in Newberry on Thursday night.
After rolling through the regular season unbeaten in district play and even avenging its only two nonconference losses by beating Trenton and Williston, top-seeded Chiefland (15-3 overall) seemed poised to take its first district volleyball title.
“It’s disappointing,” said Chiefland coach Tammy Arrington. “We came so close to our goal and came up just a little short. I think once they realize all of the things we accomplished this season, those tears will dry and they’ll look back on it that is really was a great season. We just didn’t get that last piece, that final (goal) to top it all off.”
Lady Indians’ players quickly hustled out of the gymnasium to get to the CHS Homecoming Pow-Wow that already was underway as a pair of starters - seniors Shelby Mills and Haley Gerhard - were on the court. Mills was crowned Queen and Gerhard was the Princess during a ceremony at halftime of Friday night’s football game.
Arrington declined to say that homecoming week served as any kind of distraction heading into the district finals.
“No I didn’t think that was a distraction at all,” Arrington said. “If anything I think it was a motivator for the girls to work hard and try harder to make this week even more special. They practiced hard. We had some great practices this week.”
Chiefland didn’t appear to have its ‘A’ game on Thursday despite jumping out to a 7-2 lead in Game 1. Sets were a little off, spikes were a foot long or short, and the defense wasn’t quite as stingy.
Chiefland cruised to easy wins most nights during the regular season and even swept two games from Union County (18-7). Still, Arrington didn’t believe her team was overconfident entering the title game.
“We didn’t play our best but a lot of that can be attributed to how much Union County has improved since we played them the last time,“ Arrington said. “And they knew it wasn’t going to be easy because they saw it. They saw what Union County did (earlier in the tournament) and so they knew they were playing really well. We were expecting this to be really tough and it was.”
After watching the Lady Tigers rally from behind for a 25-22 win in Game 1, the Lady Indians were unable to hold onto a late lead in Game 2 to lose 27-25.
Chiefland then took to the court in Game 3 playing with a ton of fire after Arrington reminded them of other times when teams, including opponents such as Trenton and Williston, had rallied from 2-0 deficits to win matches. The Lady Indians shot out to a 5-0 lead and led by as many as 12 points (12-4) before Union County came back to make it close at the end. CHS managed to hold on for a 25-22 win.
Then in Game 4, the lady Indians led by as many as eight points (21-14) behind the inspired play of senior Meagen Morgan, who played through a painful ankle injury. They even were down to their final point, leading 24-20 after a kill by senior Taylore Fuller, but Union County stoled momentum once again to claim the title with a 26-24 victory.
"It’s a game of momentum," Arrington said. "Once you have it, you’ve got to get every single point that you can and keep getting those points as fast as you can because you never know when it’s going to run out and the other team is going to have it.
"This game was a good example of that. Momentum is everything."
Despite the loss, Chiefland's season is not over. The Lady Indians are scheduled to play Crescent City at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the Class 1A regional semifinals in Crescent City. If they win, they could face Union County again in the following game as the Lady Tigers open against T. Dewitt Taylor in the same bracket.