Troup volleyball team finds a way
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They were on the ropes.
In the opening round of the state volleyball tournament last week in Atlanta, the Troup Lady Tigers were struggling to find any positive momentum against North Oconee.
Troup won the first set, but it dropped the next two and was trailing by a significant margin in the fourth set.
If Troup couldn’t get things turned around, its season was going to be over in short order.
During a timeout, Troup head coach Leigh Bailey huddled with the players, encouraging them and trying to find the right motivational words.
After Bailey finished talking, and moments before play was set to resume, one of the Troup players decided the time was right to offer her input.
Kate Moore, part of Troup’s talented junior class, isn’t usually a vocal player, but she felt compelled to address her teammates.
“While we were playing the fourth game, before we started, I said we didn’t need to play worried,” Moore said. “We needed to play happy, and have fun. We started playing, and we weren’t doing so well.”
During the timeout, Moore reminded her teammates about the importance of embracing the moment and playing without fear, lessons that can be found in the movie “Facing the Giants” that the teamwatched the day before the match.
Inspired by that movie, each of the players wore two wrist bands during the match.
On one wrist band were the words stone wall, which was taken from the movie, and on the other was a bible verse that each individual player chose.
“It didn’t matter what happens, as long as we play our best,” Moore said. “And we weren’t, and we weren’t having fun. They were worried about if we’d win or lose. Coach Bailey called a timeout, and I chose to let everybody know what was going on, that we needed to do what we talked about Tuesday night, and prepare for the rain, which was what it says in the movie.”
When Troup’s players made their way back onto the court, everything changed.
An inspired Troup team stormed back to win the fourth set, setting up a winner-take-all fifth set.
It was a back-and-forth set, and Troup walked away with a 17-15 victory to earn the thrilling win and advance to the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Troup will be on the road against Marist today, with the match set to begin at 5:30 p.m.
It’s a tall task against one of the state’s elite volleyball teams, but Troup will be ready.
“We’re confident. And we’re excited,” Bailey said. “They’re ready to go play.”
Troup’s players showed last week that if adversity hits, they’re not going to let it defeat them.
Troup won the first set 25-20 against North Oconee, but it lost the next two sets 25-18 and 25-16.
Then in the fourth set, Troup rallied and won 25-16 before surviving in the fifth set.
During the critical fourth set, junior Kyla Bailey said “we were just telling ourselves, we can do it. Let’s try our best, communicate, and we can do anything.”
Bailey said Moore’s words helped change the path of the match.
“When we came back out, Kate kind of brought us back in,” Bailey said. “We had a little moment where we were just praying to God. She brought our mindset back to what needs to be done.”
In the end, Troup was able to celebrate a hard-earned win over a quality opponent.
“I was so happy to be out there with the team,” Kyla Bailey said. “We were all working together.”
Anna Murphy, one of two seniors on the team along with Regina Hernandez, had 15 kills to lead Troup in that category, and she had a stellar 62 percent kill percentage.
Hernandez had a tremendous all-around match with seven kills, nine digs, and a team-leading 15 assists.
Moore did her part with 11 kills and four blocks, and Taylor Doughman led the team with 23 assists and 21 service returns.
Paige Clark had eight assists, 11 service returns and five digs, and Amauriya Brown and Landen Sheets had four and two kills, respectively.
Whatever happens today, win or lose, the players will remain unified.
“We’re all so close,” Kyla Bailey said. “We’re a very close team. It’s easier for us to communicate. And we all know each other, because we’ve been playing with each other for so long. We been together since middle school, and we’ve played club ball together.”
It’ll be a monumental undertaking today, but Troup will go in armed with the belief that it can win.
“They haven’t beaten us yet,” coach Bailey said. “If we can play consistent volleyball, to the best of our ability, then that’s all we can do.”