By Thomas Sellers Jr.
BARTLETT — For decades the Bartlett Lady Panthers vs. Millington Lady Trojans was a twice a year volleyball affair between district foes.
Then a few years ago the Lady Trojans moved into Class 2A and the Lady Panthers became part of a new-look 3A league with the likes of Collierville and Houston. With Bartlett loaded with talent equipped to take on the best of West Tennessee, the developing 2A program of Head Coach Abigail Wade in Millington saw the Sept. 8 contest against the Lady Panthers as a growing experience.
The Lady Panthers gave the Lady Trojans some growing pains beating Millington 25-7, 25, 19 and 25-5. But the Lady Trojans left the Bartlett Gymnasium optimistic because all season Millington has mixed in games against area 3A rivals like Munford, Brighton and Bartlett to prepare for league foes like Haywood, Ripley and Fayette-Ware.
“These types of games are to make sure we are performing as best to our abilities and that we can perform when we play in districts,” Wade said. “Right now we are 4-1 in the district. We’re doing pretty well. I’m very proud of how they’ve been performing. We went to five sets with Covington. We didn’t come out on top of that one. But it is a trend developing and maybe something good for this season will turn out.”
Meanwhile the Millington win improved the Lady Panthers to 6-2 overall. It was the last game before Bartlett opened up district play against the Houston Lady Mustangs.
The Lady Panthers came out firing behind he above-the-net play of Taylor Wooten, Gabby Huntley and Jayma Boyland. Bartlett players like Ashlynn Ledford neutralized the Millington defense with tips and dominated from the service line.
Bartlett jumped ahead 14-2 in the first set before prevailing 25-7. The second set was starting to look the same as the Lady Panthers surged ahead 7-1. Then Millington responded with a 8-3 run to make the score 10-9 in favor of Bartlett.
The Lady Trojans got inspired play from Abbie Gallo, Shelby Pindell, Savannah Spearman and Kaira Lopez. Millington senior Ally Marona was running all over the court setting up her teammates to help make the score 23-19 late in the set. But Bartlett held off the Millington charge to take a two-set lead.
“We learned today we have to keep our momentum up,” Wade said. “Even though you’re not on the winning end of a set, you can’t just quit. We have to learn how to get points quickly and keep our momentum. We did that in the second set. That was an amazing set. I am so proud of them.”
In the third set, Bartlett Head Coach Steffanie Grisham’s crew regrouped and dominated jumping out 18-3. The star of the final set for the Lady Panthers was Huntley scoring in a variety of way from kills to tips.
Her teammates Callie Drum and lefty Gracie Rhodes contributed down the stretch with hits and tips to make the final score 25-5.
Today was about running as many plays as possible,” Grisham said. “With all the free balls we were getting, making sure we were running and perfecting those plays as much as we can.”
Grisham said she happy to see a diverse group of Lady Panthers contribute in the win against Millington getting ready for the Houston showdown.
“They are fitting in their roles nicely,” she said. “We do have an awful lot of players who could play multiple roles. So that was difficult in the beginning trying to fit everyone where they needed to be. But everybody is starting to play their own role and learning everybody else’s role.”