By Kedrick Storey
CALEDONIA – The Ripley Lady Tigers won a decisive set just to make the playoffs. Tuesday, it took another decisive game to advance.
The third-seeded Lady Tigers defeated the top-seeded Caledonia Lady Confederates 15-12 in a Game 5 to win the series 3-2 and advance to the Third Round of the MHSAA Class I volleyball playoffs. Ripley won 28-26 and 25-17 before dropping back-to-back sets 25-20 and 25-21.
Ripley (17-14) will face Senatobia, which swept Tishomingo County, in the North semifinals on Saturday.
In Game 5, Ripley took a 7-5 lead over Caledonia on kills by Alana Ward and Abby Sullivan. The Lady Tigers led by as many as 13-8 before closing it out. Ward had seven aces for Ripley, while Sullivan had 12 kills.
Ripley (17-14) is in the midst of the program’s best run in its five-year history.
“It was nerve-wracking, but they still pulled through,” said Connolly, now in her fourth season. “I keep saying it, but I’ve never been so proud of a team. They keep showing and proving every single day that we are good. They wanted it today and it showed.”
Ripley senior middle blocker Meg Lambert said when Caledonia tied the series her and her teammates refocused and avoided negative thoughts.
“We just tried to stay positive,” said Lambert who had a team-high 13 kills, 48 digs and two blocks. “We you stay negative and get down on yourself and you stop talking to each other, it just all falls apart. We just cheer each on and say, ‘We’ll get the next point.’
Caledonia coach Samantha Brooks said her team stuck to a familiar pattern that cost them.
“We made a lot of our own mistakes, and we tend to do that,” said Brooks. “We did fight back and I’m proud of that. We fought hard so we’re not hanging our heads.”
For Caledonia (14-8), eighth-grader Bailie Cross had four consecutive aces in Game 4.