No finger pointing was necessary.
Troup High School ended its volleyball season with a few tears and a chorus of cheers. And don’t forget the 21-15 record and the invitation to the Sweet 16 in the Class AAAA State Tournament.
The Lady Tigers earned every bit of it – the accolades, the floor burns and the voice of reason from head coach Jodi Dowden. She led this team like never before, and the Troup High players responded like champions.
Lady Tiger volleyball went from being overlooked to the elite status during the past three months. That is what Dowden and these Lady Tigers did for their school, their region (5-AAAA) and themselves.
“We worked hard in practice. We believed in ourself. We had some chemistry, and we had some fun,” said Savannah Laney, the 5-foot-8 middle blocker for the Lady Tigers.
Shebroughther“AGame” to the volleyball venue with 124 kills and 104 blocked shots. Jayde Dowden, the coach’s daughter, played some intense volleyball this season, too. Dowden, a 5foot-2 setter, played some big time matches for Troup with 130 kills and 76 service aces.
“We came out strong. We played good defense, and we set some high standards,” said Dowden.
The Lady Tigers did much more than show up. Troup High became the winningest Lady Tiger volleyball team over the past decade. The Lady Tigers won some respect and matches with senior defensive specialist Madi Jeter.
She got it done on game day this year with 88 service aces and 84 digs. Jeter didn’t mind going to the deck to save the ball.
Senior middle blocker Akhea Mitchell was a fixture on this Troup High team, too. The 5-foot-6 Mitchell brought a high skill set to the gym and the matches. Mitchell’s contributions included 40 blocks and lots of hustle plays.
“We did some good stuff (this season). We had some good outside hitters. If you want it, you have to go get it,” said Mitchell.
Bailey Lawson, a senior outside hitter, enabled the Lady Tigers to take a stroll down Victory Lane this season with her teammates. Lawson was at her best this year with 143 kills, 61 service aces and 278 digs.
She does dig Lady Tiger volleyball.
“We ran our plays. We dug more balls, and we went pretty far,” said the 5-foot-4 Lawson.
Junior outside hitter Lauren Sheets dusted off the floor for the Lady Tigers frequently from August to October, too. Sheets is a 5-foot-6 bonafide prep volleyball star.
“We had good footwork, and we shut down (the other team’s) hitters,” said Sheets.
Three sophomores also chipped in for the Lady Tigers this season. Anna Murphy, Regina Hernandez and Gace Ingram were a part of the winning process for Troup High. The 5-foot-10 Murphy had 89 kills and 16 blocked shots.
“We persevered. We were amazing. There was a different feeling and vibe on this team,” said Murphy, an outside hitter.
Hernandez brought something to this team, too, this fall. The girl had a good attitude and some finely tuned instincts. Hernandez also produced 16 service aces and 56 digs in Troup’s 36 matches.
“We actually have a good volleyball team. We beat Smiths Station, and we played better against (Columbus) Northside than we ever have. We did it for the team,” said Hernandez.
Ingram also did her volleyball thing in style this season. She kept moving for 85 aces and 18 digs. Ingram is a sophomore defensive specialist. But most of all, she is a Lady Tiger volleyball player.
“We might have to do this again next year,” said Ingram. “We’ve been representing our school and playing with confidence.”
Troup’s historic run still ended last Thursday night in North Georgia with a 3-0 loss to Ridgeland in the second round of the State Tournament. It was all over but the grimacing for the Lady Tigers and senior Tori Cason.
The 5-foot-3 Cason completed her final season at THS with 177 aces and 217 digs. Cason and the 2016 Lady Tiger volleyball team will never be forgotten.
The Troup High history book was re-written, and coach Jodi Dowden totally approves of that message.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer