Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. — Don’t concentrate on the record, concentrate on getting better.
Coffee County Central High School head volleyball coach Andrew Taylor had foreseen the scenario playing out in his head for the 2017 Lady Raiders.
So when the season started, his message after “beefing” up the schedule with championship-level competition was simple.
“We’ve had some setbacks, but the whole goal the whole time was not to concentrate on the record, and concentrate on getting better,” Taylor explained.
“It was all about tonight. We’ve been working since June for tonight, and it just all came together.”
Coffee County’s record read 17-20 overall, but the Lady Raiders never flinched when it mattered most on Thursday night.
The Lady Raiders showed up to Lincoln County High School, showed out and left Fayetteville as the 2017 District 8-AAA Volleyball Tournament’s Champions.
Coffee County (19-20 overall) did so in dominating fashion, winning the district title without losing a single set in neither the semifinals against Franklin County (3-0; 25-11, 25-12, 25-19), nor the championship match against the hosting team, Lincoln County (3-0; 25-20, 25-16, 25-10).
“You know we played all together,” said senior Tyana Fenton, who was received the district tournament’s most valuable player award after the match.
“We were all positive. Even when one of us did something wrong or did something bad, we helped each other up.”
The Lady Raiders played with an unmatched energy level in both rounds.
The Lady Raiders were able to put the Lady Falcons in an early 13-2 hole in the first set, and wouldn’t let up. It was the direct benefit of having a long break in between matches.
Lincoln County had the tough task of facing a well-rested Coffee County team 20 minutes after winning an emotional back-and-forth semifinal match against Columbia, to which the Lady Falcons had to rally from down two sets to one.
“It’s just really hard for your girls to stay that high level and that emotional all the way through two matches,” said an understanding Taylor, who said his teams have had to go through the same turnaround the past two seasons playing as the No. 2 and 3 seeds.
“It was definitely an advantage for us tonight to be the No. 1 seed, get to play, get to relax.”
Thursday was also a big day for one Lady Raider in particular, senior Odalis Garcia, who celebrated her birthday with one of the biggest wins in school history – and cupcakes.
“I like being with these girls, and this was a really great birthday memory that I have,” Garcia stated.
She said the team spent part of the day serving, and it definitely showed, as the Lady Raiders recorded 19 aces against Franklin County, and 16-knuckling serves against the Falcons.
“That was like the important thing in volleyball,” Garcia added. “I think that kind of helped us out tonight.”
Assists: Amanda Mukai (43)
Digs: Tyana Fenton (19)
Kills: Lexi Bryan (13)
Aces: Tyana Fenton (11)
Combined stats for both matches
REGION 4-AAA FINAL FOUR
Thursday’s district tournaments unveiled the state’s final 32 teams. Among those 32 is Coffee County’s opponent in the upcoming Region 4-AAA tournament, Blackman High School, which fell to District 7-AAA champion Siegel in four sets (3-1).
The Lady Raiders will “host” the Lady Blaze at the region tournament, which will be held next week at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro.
“They’re big,” said Taylor of Blackman. “I went and walked by their huddle [at the Mid-Tenn. Classic]; I think I saw one young lady that was shorter than I was.
Like I told our girls, [there are] about 115 triple-A volleyball teams in the state – there’s only 32 left. We’re gonna’ get in that final 32, and we’re gonna’ do what we can.”
District 8-AAA runner up Lincoln County will face Siegel in the other semifinal, with the winner of each match advancing to both the region championship later that night as well as the sectional match for the state tournament.
All dates and times have yet to be announced.
Coffee County had four Lady Raiders named to the All-District 8-AAA team.
Seniors Tyana Fenton (Tournament MVP), Odalis Garcia and Alliyah Williams, as well as sophomore Keelie Hillis.
Reach Demarco Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @iam__demo