A lot of girls can jump. A lot of girls can hit.
Maryville High School senior Allie Porter-Garrett is what it looks like when you add the accuracy.
The Lady Rebel outside hitter delivered a series of surgical strikes at net to break open close games with Heritage at the District 4AAA volleyball tournament Monday night at Maryville’s James Campbell Gymnasium.
The gap Porter-Garrett and middle blocker Kylie Whaley helped the Lady Rebels create eventually proved decisive, with Maryville taking the quarterfinal elimination match in straight sets, 25-18, 25-12, 25-20.
With William Blount falling to district newcomer Catholic the same evening, the Lady Rebels were the last area Class AAA team standing as the tournament moved to semifinal play on Tuesday. Only the district champion and runner up advance to region tournament play next week.
Alcoa’s Lady Tornadoes play host to the District 4AA tournament Thursday night.
The Lady Rebels and Lady Mountaineers were even in many respects this season, with Heritage taking the regular-season series, 2-1. Maryville’s lone win came during the decisive match of the Blount County tournament last month, where Whaley, the tournament’s most valuable player, led the Lady Rebels to the county title.
“They’re playing as well as we did when we beat Farragut and Catholic early in the district,” Maryville coach Angel Babelay said.
Facing elimination on the opening nigh of the district tournament did the rest.
“We talked about it, definitely,” Babelay said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had to play the first night.”
Heritage broke to early leads in each game Monday, only to see Porter-Garrett let lose with a salvo from side netting to spark a Maryville run. With Whaley dominant down the middle and junior Morgan Hall delivering a flawless match at setter, the Lady Rebels stormed back each time to open six-point leads that were telling.
Porter-Garrett and Whaley finished with 10 kills each, with Porter-Garrett adding eight digs, Whaley four blocks. The Lady Rebels looked remarkably composed throughout.
“When someone makes a mistake, we just say, ‘Side out; next play,’” Porter-Garrett said.
Hall turned in an all-round performance of 36 sets, three aces and three blocks.
“Since the end of the year, we’ve really learned to come together and work together as a team,” Hall said. “We all knew we had to get it done.”
First-year Heritage coach Lisa Collins was disappointed with how things ended but not in the season turned in by the Lady Mountaineers. Reclassification brought the Irish into the district and only made things tougher. If not for Maryville’s mid-game rallies each set, Heritage looked poised for another deep postseason run.
“We had a fantastic season,” Collins said. “The thing about our district is you’ve got five teams in there that are good, and, on any given night, they can win. We had a bad night and it was the wrong time to have a bad night.”
The Lady Governors gave the Irish a run for their money the first two games before Catholic pulled clear to win going away, 26-24, 25-17, 25-10.
“It’s hard to come back in three out of five, especially against a good team like that,” William Blount coach Chris Merritt said. “They (the Irish) were blocking very well, and it took a while for my hitters to adjust. I’ve got girls that want to swing. I’m proud of that, but you’ve got to play smart, too.
“Hopefully, they can continue to improve and I have high expectations for them next year.”