LEBANON The Portland High School volleyball team didn’t cut it quite as close on Tuesday evening.
After needing five games to capture a pair of regular-season victories against Station Camp, the top-seeded Lady Panthers claimed a 25-22, 25-21, 25-11 victory over the fourth-seeded Lady Bison in a District 9-AAA Tournament semifinal contest played at Wilson Central High School.
“Throughout the day, everybody was really nervous, including me,” Portland junior middle hitter Mackenzie Trouten said. “One of our teammates (sophomore Rachel Jennings) told me, ‘it’s just another game.’ That helped me, because I was freaking out. We have to take it like that it’s just another game.”
It wasn’t just another game though as the winner advanced to Thursday evening’s championship match and also earned a spot in next week’s regional tournament. The losing team ended its season.
“Portland is always so driven,” Lady Bison head coach Molly Yarbrough said. “Volleyball is their success story.
“We know we can play with them. They’ve proven that for themselves. They have to prove to themselves that they can beat them.”
The two teams played in Portland just five days earlier.
“They have the ability to play at a high level,” Lady Panther head coach Rob Lesemann said of Station Camp. “They’re bigger than we are.
“Our serving was key. It kept them out of their offense. We played at the net pretty well. We blocked well. We played the way we’ve been wanting.”
Trailing 22-16 in the opening game, Station Camp reeled off five consecutive points, pulling to within a one following junior Shelby Cage’s ace.
However, a kill by senior outside hitter Abby Akins ended the run, and the opening game ended with back-to-back kills from junior Alexia Dorris and freshman Marlayna Bullington.
Cage served her squad out to a 7-2 lead in the second game, and the lead was still at five points (19-14) following junior Claira Tracy’s kill.
However, moments later, Portland junior Bailey Thornton served up five consecutive points to give her squad a 23-20 lead.
Trouten started that five-point spree with a block at the net, and she eventually ended game two with a kill.
Then, Bullington served up the first nine points of the final game, including three consecutive service winners. Akins had back-to-back kills during that stretch, and Trouten provided a block and a kill that resulted in points as well.
“We just played real good defense,” Trouten said. “It was all-around a good time.”
Lesemann added, “Overall, (the improvement) has gotten better. I don’t think we peaked in the season. We’ve been squeaking out wins. Slowly, we’ve gotten better. The middle (hitters) have gotten a lot better, more consistent. That’s a big help, and the passing has been pretty good overall.”
The Lady Bison didn’t get any closer than six points later on in game three.
“Every time we’ve played them except that last game, it’s always one or two points (that determines the winner),” Yarbrough said. “The first time we played them at our gym, if you add up all the points, they win by one point.
“Our district is very even. One or two plays, and it could be anybody’s game.”
The Lady Panther program advanced to the region tournament for the seventh consecutive season and improved to 30-6.
Station Camp concluded its season with a 35-13 record – a school record for victories – and won the silver division championship at the Rocky Top Classic in Gatlinburg and also won its own Bison Bash Tournament by defeating Beech in the championship match. The Lady Bison lose just two seniors, outside hitter Alex Killeen and libero Maddie Snyder.
>> Station Camp opened the tournament with a 25-20, 27-25, 24-26, 25-19 victory over fifth-seeded Mt. Juliet in Monday’s quarterfinal round.
Portland rolled to a 25-12, 25-11, 25-7 victory over No. 8 seed Gallatin in its opening match.
Reach Craig Harris at 615-575-7138 or on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.