By GENE PHELPS
TUPELO – New Albany coach Shay Ashford hates losing, but Thursday’s close high school volleyball loss to Tupelo – her alma mater – didn’t sting so bad.
The visiting Lady Bulldogs, a second-year program, gave the Lady Wave a fight before falling 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-20).
“I don’t like to lose, but I was proud of that loss,” Ashford said postgame. “We haven’t played this well … ever. It was great.”
New Albany (0-2) fell behind 9-2 in the first game, but rallied to cut Tupelo’s lead to 23-21. The Lady Wave answered with Kaitlyn Wilson’s kill and Georgeanna Bowen’s service ace to win by four.
Tupelo (3-3) fell behind 15-10 in the second game. Miriah O’Neal’s tip-in tied the score at 20-20 as the Wave scored the final six points.
“New Albany has a solid defensive team,” said Tupelo coach Laurie Bishop, a Lady Wave teammate of Ashford’s in Tupelo’s 2001 state championship season. “I can’t even count the number of errors we had. I think we had the jitters and it affected our play.
“There’s a lot of heart and a lot of fight in New Albany.”
There’s also a lot of height. The Bulldogs’ lineup features 6-foot-1 Darby Mills, 5-11 Emma Wilson and 6-foot Erin Michael Carter.
Ashford said two key players were missing because of softball – a libero and a server.
“This team is so athletic,” she said. “They want to play.”
Tupelo struggled early in the third game and fell behind 13-6 before starting a rally on a service ace by Morgan Hereford. The Lady Wave tied the score at 16-16.
Bowen, who recorded a team-high five blocks, gave Tupelo the match at 25-20 on back-to-back blocked shots.
“New Albany did a good job tipping and covering; we didn’t expect it,” she said. “In the third (game), we decided it needed to end. We picked it up.”