CENTRE – Spring Garden senior outside hitter has been playing on the Lady Panther varsity volleyball team since the eighth grade. She had never been a part of a Cherokee County Tournament championship team.
That is until now.
The top-seeded Lady Panthers swept their way to the title on Saturday at Cherokee County High School. They opened the tournament with a 25-7, 25-9 win over Gaylesville, then defeated Sand Rock twice (25-21, 25-19 and 21-25, 25-22, 15-12).
Fittingly, Molock managed to earn the championship match’s final kill.
“It didn’t matter if I got it or anybody else, I was just happy to win and do it as a team,” Molock said.
“This is the only sport she plays, and she puts a lot into it,” Spring Garden head coach Ricky Austin said. “We’ve got other good players on this team, and obviously it’s a team sport, but she has been a constant heartbeat since eighth grade. I think a lot of players gravitate to her and around her with her leadership, her determination and her love for this game. I was glad to see Haleigh as a senior get to have a moment like that.”
Perhaps even more impressive is the Lady Panthers (23-5) earned their county title without four of their players due to COVID-19. Austin praised how his team was able to persevere after a tough week.
“These kids were determined to fight through things, and the mature leadership they showed speaks volumes,” he said. “We’ve got four players who were not here that would give anything in the world to be here right now, and I wish they were here to experience this, but that’s where we are with this thing. We’re going to celebrate with them. They’re county champs too because they’ve been at practice helping us build.”
“Whenever we realized we were going to have people out, we were like we’ve just got to keep working harder and harder at practice and figure out what we were going to do,” Molock said. “I think everybody really stepped up in their roles. Ramie (Thacker) and Hope (Highfield) did really well. I thought they helped us a lot.”
Sand Rock (18-8) was also short a starter on Saturday and had to compensate. The Lady Wildcats were able to do that against Cherokee County twice with 25-18, 25-17 and 25-12 , 25-23 wins to secure their berth in the championship match against Spring Garden.
“Both our teams were impacted by quarantines, but they played more solid and wanted it more today,” Lady Wildcat coach Lisa Bates said. “Spring Garden did a better job of adjusting to adversity today. They deserve a lot of credit for filling in roles and competing well. I thought we lacked fire today and could have played better.”
Molock led the Lady Panthers with 26 kills, four aces and three assists on the day. Neely Welsh posted 15 kills and four aces. Steward added 55 assists. Autumn Sides delivered eight kills and three blocks. Lexie Adkison had six kills and a pair of aces. Highfield finished with four kills, an ace and an assist.
Hannah Davis posted 37 kills, 39 digs and 4 aces for the Lady Wildcats. Caley Garrett collected 75 digs. Maci Brown came away with 19 kills and three blocks. Katelyn St.Clair had 15 kills. Jacey Stephens added 43 assists. McKenna Ballenger managed 36 assists and three aces. Cheyanne Fuqua contributed eight kills and five blocks. Jadyn Foster also had 8 kills. Makenzi Blackwell finished with 26 digs and three aces.
After losing to Sand Rock in the tournament’s opening match, Cherokee County rebounded to defeat Gaylesville 25-19, 25-21 in the losers bracket before falling to Sand Rock again.
In their first match against Sand Rock, Anna Walker collected five kills and a pair of digs. Ella Garmany added four kills and four digs. Madison Leonard contributed six digs and a kill. Kenzie Hunter had three digs and a kill. Emilee Paul posted two digs and a kill. Sarai Ray finished with five assists and a dig.
In the Lady Warriors’ win over Gaylesville, Garmany delivered seven digs, three aces and a pair of kills. AK Reyes posted nine digs. Leonard had seven digs and a kill. Ray collected four assists, three digs and an ace. Hunter had four digs and two kills. Vivian Connell came away with two digs, an assist and a kill. Walker managed five digs, three kills and an ace. Libby Curry finished with a pair of aces.
In Cherokee County’s elimination match with Sand Rock, Walker came away with five kills, a dig and an ace. Reyes posted seven digs. Leonard had four digs and a kill. Ray added two assists and a dig. Garmany managed two kills, two digs and a block. Paul collected two kills, two digs, a block and an ace. Raegan Tierce tallied a kill and a block. Hunter came away with three kills and three digs. Connell contributed five digs and a block. Curry finished with an ace.
Natalie Baty led Gaylesville with eight digs, four kills and three aces. Peyton Bright posted eight digs, four assists and a kill. Chelsey Cagle came away with six digs and two assists. Andreah Calvert contributed three digs, two blocks and and a kill. Delaney Coker delivered five digs. Sydney Smith had two blocks and a dig. Malaya Shireman finished with an ace.
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