By REID TUCKER
Freeport smashed the Chipley Lady Tigers, winning in straight sets to take the district volleyball title for the first time in five seasons.
The Lady Bulldogs defeated the squads of Bozeman and Chipley in turn over the course of the two-day District 2-A tournament, played Tuesday, Oct. 25 and Thursday, Oct. 27 at Chipley. Freeport had a little more trouble with Bozeman in the first round, losing the first set but coming back to win with scores of 24-26, 25-9, 25-11, 25-15. Freeport more swiftly felled Chipley in the final round, posting scores of 25-20, 25-19, 25-10 to bring its record to 19-6 going into regional play.
As Freeport had already swept Chipley 25-14, 25-17, 25-18 in their regular-season matchup on Oct. 4, the Lady Bulldogs were heavily favored to take the district title. Freeport coach Tina Knight was confident her team could win but also that she is always wary of previously beaten opponents keen to take revenge, especially with the district tournament being played on the Lady Tigers’ home court.
“We went over there Thursday night knowing we had a chance at the district title if the girls would stick together and play as a team,” Knight said. “As a coach, I really do realize that on any given night any team, even ones that we have beaten, can come back and give us a run for our money.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ top players came out in force against Chipley, with Brianna Ross scoring four aces, 13 kills and four digs, while Mary Kate Myrick posted an ace, 8 kills, six digs and 10 assists. The entire Freeport roster contributed to the win, especially on defense, where the Lady Bulldogs had to watch out for Chipley’s always-dangerous Aaliyah Coleman, who served and hit well throughout the tournament.
In the first day of the tournament, Freeport defeated Bozeman, with the contributions of Ross (10 aces, 14 kills, three blocks) and Myrick (nine each in aces, kills and assists plus five digs) being joined by those of Prophecy Spaid (one ace, seven kills, one dig), Kennedi Bates (six aces, one kill, eight digs), Laura Hayhurst (three aces, two kills, nine digs) and Charity Head (five aces, one kill, two digs). That same day, Chipley defeated South Walton after three close sets of 25-16, 27-25, 26-24 in one of the Lady Seahawks best performances of the season. Standout players for the Seahawks were Katie Logan, Olivia Kolovich, Alex McManus and Hannah Crawford.
Freeport is set to face District 1 runner-up Jay on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 8 in the regional semi-final. With fewer teams participating in Class A’s new rural classification, the Lady Bulldogs would only need to beat Jay and then get a victory against District 1 champ Baker before heading to the Final Four. If Freeport makes it that far, they’ll contest for a state championship in Kissimmee starting the following Tuesday.
Knight said her team will have to be in top shape to get through its next two opponents, who are sure to want a state berth just as much as the Lady Bulldogs.
“As we enter the play-offs, these young ladies are going to have to be tenacious and definitely bring their A-game every time they step on the court,” Knight said.