Finished just short…
Lady Tigers fall in regional semifinal; miss chance to go to state tourney
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
FORT PAYNE – The state tournament bracket wasn't big enough for two Area 16 teams.
Hartselle saw its dream of a state finals berth come to an end as the Lady Tigers fell 23-25, 25-21, 18-25 to Muscle Shoals in the semifinal of the Regional D Tournament. The loss was especially difficult for Hartselle, who had defeated the Lady Trojans to win the Area 16 Tournament in Muscle Shoals on Oct. 18.
"I was very proud of my girls," Hartselle coach Tanya Lybarger said. "Like I told them (after losing to Muscle Shoals), most teams don't have as good a team as ours. And whether we get to go to state or not, we beat a lot of people (during the regular season) that will be going to state.
"They need to be proud of that. You can't help that the region you're in has such tough competition. They kept fighting until the last point."
The Lady Tigers were hoping to become the first team in Hartselle history to advance to the state playoffs, and saw their fate come down to a familiar foe. Hartselle and Muscle Shoals split their first six matches of the season, but it was the Lady Trojans who came up with the biggest victory of all.
Hartselle held a 23-21 lead late in game one of the semifinal, and Muscle Shoals coach Brenda Mays-Harris elected to use her team's second timeout. The Lady Trojans immediately rallied with four straight points to win the game 25-23.
"Hartselle has a great team with some very strong athletic kids," Mayes-Harris said. "We came into that match 3-3 against each other and we knew we had to play well. We made mistakes, and they made mistakes, and we were happy that we were able to take control of that match and get into the state playoffs."
Hartselle trailed 0-6 at the start of game two, but rallied back to eventually take its first lead at the 17-16 mark and go on to a 25-21 victory. In the decisive tiebreaker, Hartselle again started off slow but this time was unable to bounce back.
Muscle Shoals led 23-10 late before the Lady Tigers desperately rallied back with six straight points to make the final score respectable. Hartselle eventually fell 25-18 and watched as Muscle Shoals, who won four straight state championships from 1998-2001, celebrated.
"We wanted to be that first team in Hartselle's history to make it to state, but we just fell short," Lybarger said. "We've got a good team coming back next year, and even though I hate it for my seniors (to lose their last game), I'm going to work with the ones we've got coming back and we're going to try again next year."
The Lady Tigers, ranked No. 3 in the most recent poll, opened their regional tournament with a 25-7, 25-11 win over Lee-Huntsville. Hartselle then faced No. 1 and defending champion Huntsville, who proved its mettle with a dominating 9-25, 11-25 victory over the Lady Tigers.
After dropping to the losers' bracket, Hartselle defeated Arab 25-13, 25-16 and Fort Payne 25-19, 25-23 before losing to Muscle Shoals in the semifinal. The Lady Tigers finished their season with a record of 54-21.
Hartselle wins Area 16 Tournament in exciting fashion
MUSCLE SHOALS – Hartselle dropped its first match against host Muscle Shoals, then roared back out of the losers bracket and defeated the Lady Trojans twice to come away with the Area 16 title.
Hartselle opened its tournament with a 25-11, 25-19 win over Athens. The Lady Tigers then fell to Muscle Shoals in a hard-fought match 25-23, 26-28, 20-25.
Hartselle stayed alive in the losers bracket with a 25-12, 25-16 win over Russellville that guaranteed a spot in the region tournament and set up a rematch with Muscle Shoals.
The Lady Tigers knocked off Muscle Shoals 25-22, 16-25, 25-22 to set up one final match for the area title. During Hartselle's game one victory, Mary Virginia Reeves sprained her ankle and was forced to sit out the remainder of the tournament.
In the decisive game three, Hartselle finished on top with a 27-25, 25-22 win over the Lady Trojans. Both Muscle Shoals and Hartselle advanced to the Region D Tournament in Fort Payne.
"We were very determined (to win)," Lybarger said. "And when Mary Virginia went down they really stepped it up. The difference was my defense on the back. Really, my passers don't get enough credit, and Jenna Weatherford, Brittni Russell, Emily Roden made some awesome plays on the back line."
Lauren Drake, Shan Jones, Mary Virginia Reeves and Kayla Orr were named to the all-area team.