By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Brighton Lady Cardinals have been building up this moment.
The night of Sept. 1 presented a chance for the team and Head Coach Shayna Johnson to achieve one of their goals. Tipton County and district rival the Munford Lady Cougars made the 5-minute trip up Highway 51 to the Brighton Gymnasium.
The Brighton senior class has never beaten the girls from Cougar Town. Taking the tough lesson from a five-set loss to the Arlington Lady Tigers, the Lady Cardinals were focused on taking down their longtime foe and neighbor. The Lady Cardinals earned the elusive Munford victory 25-20, 25-12 and 25-22.
“It’s going to hurt to lose these seniors but this season is going to be good,” Johnson declared after the game. “Honestly they all work as a team. They’ve always worked as a team. They work well together and they communicate. And they’re all best friends off the court. That just makes it that much better on the court.”
Brighton’s senior leadership was evident throughout the night against Munford behind the effort of upperclassmen like Mackenzie Winnans, Lauren Baskin and Demiyah Gatlin.
Throughout the night Brighton made an effort to neutralize the attack of Munford senior hitter Jordan Moore. In the process, other Lady Cougar hitters like Brianna Bounds, Corbin Michael and Riley Baskin had to find ways to score at the net through the Brighton defensive set up.
Munford was doing a great job early in the first set jumping ahead 7-3. Baskins served up an ace that gave the Lady Cougars a four-point advantage.
Winnans snapped the Munford momentum with a spike. Brighton proceeded to outscore Munford 7-4 to trim the deficit to a point at 11-10.
The Lady Cougars regained control behind a couple of solid plays from Moore on defense. The senior Lady Cougar’s block gave Munford a 16-12 advantage.
Then Brighton seized control of the first set with a 7-2 run led by the play of Addie Kidd. Her spike at the net made the score 16-13.
“Addie Kidd really stepped up to the plate today,” Johnson noted. “She’s got the height, she’s got the body and she has the heart. She puts it down.”
Then the duo of Gatlin and Winnans kept on scoring to finally give Brighton the lead at 19-18. Winnans executed a couple of spikes down the stretch and Brie Howard scored on a tip giving Brighton the 25-20 victory.
The second set was all Brighton. With the score 7-5 in favor of the Lady Cardinals, Brighton proceeded on a 15-7 run to take a 10-point lead after the ace served up by Winnans.
“They can be a knockout team,” Johnson said. “It was 25-12 I believe. That was the first time I’ve seen them play an all-around great set. We’ve got glimmers here and there. We’ve had good sets but that was our first absolute great set.”
Part of that great set was Lauren Baskin scoring at the net. Brighton’s frontline managed to get a couple of blocks on Moore.
Gatlin made the score 21-12 with a spike. After the Winnans ace, Gatlin was on the attack again with a kill to make the score 23-12. Winnans served up an ace to end the second set.
Ahead 2 sets, the Lady Cardinals were not going to allow history to repeat itself against Munford.
“It took straight up heart,” Johnson said. “When we played Arlington we got up 2-0. Then Arlington ended up coming back beating us because we thought we had it won. So we knew coming into this, 2-0 meant nothing. We had to finish and they showed absolute heart and the hustle necessary.”
The Lady Cougars displayed their heart with players like Michael and Riley Baskin keeping pace with Brighton. Lady Cardinals like Kidd and Lauren Baskin made enough plays to maintain the lead. Baskin scored on another hit to make the tally 21-15.
After a Gatlin kill made the score 23-18, Munford made one more rally starting with a Riley Baskin ace. Then Moore earned a couple of points on a block and spike making the score 23-22. Brighton snatched back momentum and obtained the final two points for the overall victory. The Lady Cardinals improved to 4-1 overall on the season after the Munford victory.
“Not being complacent is going to be a key for our success,” Johnson concluded. “Coming in everyday working hard at practice. Taking that extra step to be better and going that extra mile outside of the gym. With these girls, they’ll do it.”