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Big win for Callaway volleyball team

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

They needed that one.

The Callaway High volleyball team, after dropping its first nine matches of the season against some strong competition, finally put one in the win column with a home victory over Lamar County on Tuesday.

After winning a first-set thriller 31-29, Callaway pulled away late in the second and final set for a 25-20 victory, and the celebration was on.

“I think that’s a really big win for us,” said Leigh Bailey, Callaway’s first-year head coach. “We’re fixing to start region play in September, so now we’ve got a win under our belt, so it should be all good.”

Tiffany Bledsoe, one of six seniors on the team, was thrilled to be able to enjoy a victory with her teammates for the first time.

“Everybody was nervous. We’d gone so many times without winning,” Bledsoe said. “We were all super happy. I think it made us better as a team, just getting that win today.”

Callaway began the day with a hard-fought match against Upson-Lee.

After dropping the first set 25-12, Callaway was much more competitive in the second set, but it lost 25-20.

Callaway immediately returned to the court to play Lamar County, and the two Class AA programs gave the fans a show. In a back-and-forth first set, it was tied at 29-29 when Callaway won two straight points to take the win.

Callaway was facing a sizeable deficit in the first set when Bledsoe came through with some strong serving to get her team back in it.

“We were down by at least six, and Tiffany got up and served like six in a row,” Bailey said. “That got us even with them, and we kept going back-and-forth and back-and-forth.”

In the second set, Callaway seemed to be in control with a 15-5 lead following an Amoria McFarlin ace, but Lamar County fought back and tied it at 20-20.

The Lady Cavaliers needed someone to make a play, and McFarlin responded with a kill to give her team a one-point lead.

Moments later, Bledsoe had a block to push the lead to two, and McFarlin had back-to-back service winners to extend the lead to 24-20.

On match point, Haley Blair’s winner gave Callaway the victory.

“They didn’t give up on themselves,” Bailey said, reflecting on the slow start to the season. “We’re going to have growing pains, because we have some young girls. Everybody has played. I have 11 girls, and everybody played, and everybody participated. Everybody was part of it. That’s the biggest thing.”

While there are plenty of newcomers to the team, there are also six seniors who are playing for a third head coach in four years.

The seniors are Tiffany Bledsoe, Auneicia Hill, Tamyra Dukes, Autumn Todd, Jurnee Garrett and Jaidah Hale.

For the past two seasons, the seniors played for coach Precious White, and when she left Bailey arrived to take over the program.

“We had coach White for two years,” Bledsoe said. “With coach Bailey coming in, it was a big adjustment, plus we lost all our seniors (from last season’s team), but we have practice every day, and we’ve gotten closer as a team, so it’s been good.”

Bailey appreciates the seniors, and she also believes the future is bright for the program with so many talented underclassmen.

“Most of our starters are kind of young,” Bailey said. “Everything that we’re doing, as far as (junior varsity) and having the freshman team, is for the future.”

Bailey also wants to make sure the players have a good time whenever they come to the gym for practice or games.

“You need to have fun,” Bailey said. “We want to keep them happy, and keep learning.”