Gilmer Avenges Last Season’s Playoff Loss With Sweep of Canton
WHITEHOUSE — Gilmer coach Keely Peterson had seen this movie before and wasn’t interesting in watching a sequel.
After witnessing her team struggle out of the gate in Tuesday’s Class 3A Region II bi-district playoff against Canton for the second consecutive year, Peterson asked for timeout. And it paid off as the Lady Buckeyes dominated from that point forward in a 25-15, 25-16, 25-20 sweep at Whitehouse High School’s Wildcat Arena.
“At that point I kinda wanted to make sure we lost any of our nerves,” Peterson said. “Last year when we played them it was a tough match. Our girls came out, got spooked and I really didn’t want it to be something like that. I wanted to make sure their nerves were straight … they just needed a little second to pause, but they did fine and they came back.”
Gilmer (25-10), the runner-up from District 16-3A, will play 13-3A champion Paris North Lamar at 2:30 p.m. Saturday from Mount Pleasant High School in an area-round playoff.
Canton, which finished third in 15-3A, took a 12-9 lead on Gilmer in the first game when Peterson took the timeout. And after the Eaglettes expanded its lead to 14-9, Gilmer completely righted the ship by scoring the next 14 points and 16 of the game’s final 17.
Gilmer never trailed the rest of the match.
“I felt like they were determined,” Peterson said. “They came out here with a goal; their goal was to get past the first round … their goal is to do something with this season. We picked the words ‘leave a legacy.’ In the past years, Gilmer has not made it past the first round. They want it to be something that can spark the girls in the future. That’s their goal this year, to push it as far as they can and set a standard for the girls in Gilmer.”
The Lady Buckeyes opened up a 19-10 lead in Game 2 and began the third game with a 10-3 run, which proved too difficult for Canton to overcome.
The duo of junior middle blocker Maci Ritter and senior outside hitter Makayla Sikes led the offensive charge. Ritter finished with 11 kills, four blocks and two aces, while Sikes added six kills and an ace.
“They’ve been a pretty outstanding duo for us throughout the year,” Peterson said of Ritter and Sikes. “They’re working, flat-out. Their goal is to hit the ball straight down and they do a pretty good job of it. If anything, their problem is they’re too aggressive. But the fact that they’re being aggressive is fantastic.”
Gilmer was also sparked by the all-around effort of senior setter Shaylee Fennell, who dished out 21 assists and contributed six kills, five of which were well-placed tips over the net.
“She is one of the best setters in the district, her and (Rachel Riestenberg) from Spring Hill,” Peterson said of Fennell. “She does a really good job of reading a defense and she’s got a little bit of help from the sideline, but she does a great job of placing and she’s very smart about when she does it. She knows that when it’s in transition it’s going to work.”
The Lady Buckeyes also got a strong serving outing from senior defensive specialist Sassy Meadows, who recorded seven aces on the night to go with her two kills.
“Sassy is a great spot-server,” Peterson said. “I know when she’s back there I can tell her anywhere and she can get it there. She’s very smart about knowing what I mean when I call a spot. She picks a spot out on that court and she hits it and she was spot-on with almost every single one of her serves today.”
Freshman middle blocker Belynda Ray had five kills, four blocks an assist for Gilmer, while Christian Brown finished with five kills, one assist and two aces and Karlie White chipped in with three kills.
Canton was led by junior Brianna Rhines’ seven kills and four blocks. Lilly Nelson added six kills and a block, Madi Allen provided five kills, one assist and one ace, Jaycie Smith had three kills and Brantlee Neff dished out 18 assists to go with three aces in the losing effort.