Thirteen appeared to be an unlucky number for the Polk County Lady Wildcats volleyball team Monday night as they tried to keep their perfect season alive against McMinn County.
The 13-0 Benton squad fought to the bitter end, taking the Lady Cherokees to five sets. But, the size and skill of the McMinn crew proved just a little too much, stopping the streak at 13 with Polk’s first loss on the season.
Polk had a number of miscues early that resulted in errant passes and misplayed balls and allowed McMinn County to jump out to a healthy opening lead.
In the first set, the Lady Wildcats battled back to retake a late lead. Yet, the Lady Cherokees stopped the rally just short when they scored the final nine points to take the 1-0 lead.
Things looked dire for Polk when the second set got under way. McMinn got off to a commanding lead to start play. At one point the home team held an 11-4 advantage, but the Lady Wildcats showed their heart.
After drawing within two points (22-24) of their hosts the visiting Benton team was unable to keep McMinn from scoring the final point and going up 2-0.
It was crunch time for Polk volleyball, down two sets and sitting just 25 points away from its first season defeat.
“I told them between sets two and three that we still had the momentum. If we just kept playing hard we could make things happen. We had some problems with passes and things in the first two sets. I knew we could do better. Then we started doing those things right and playing better and gave a very good team a heck of a match,” stated Polk County head coach Danny Rogers.
The team responded, going on a 10-5 run to start the third set and grabbing the final three points to reverse the tables from its last match and grab its own 25-22 win to claw back into the match.
It was an even more commanding performance in the fourth set. The Lady Wildcats really started clicking and finding a rhythm, winning by the largest margin of the night, 25-18, to tie things up at 2-all and force the fifth tie-breaking match.
Both teams left everything they had on the court in the finally. The Lady Cherokees surged to a 10-4 lead, but Polk battled back bringing the score to 14-13 before McMinn pushed its final point across to grab the 15-13 win.
“This is a tough match. You never want to lose, but I am so proud. We got down two sets and the kids could have quit, but they didn’t; they fought back. I’m very proud of them for that,” expressed Rogers.
Emily Wilson led Polk with five aces and five kills. Kayla Lowe had a pair of aces and kills. Catie Hughes notched three kills. Emily Bates and Angelica Martinez both had an ace apiece on the night.
Next up the Lady Wildcats will travel to Sequoyah this evening for a very important District 5-AA match. A win tonight would at guarantee at least a piece of a first place finish in the district.