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Regional berth slips away from Lady Tigers

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Although their first trip to the regional tournament will have to wait, the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers volleyball team sent a message Monday the wait may be a short one.
T.R. Miller had victory and the regional qualifying spot slip through its hands when it fell to the Sumter County Lady Wildcats 25-13, 26-28, 15-12 in Monday's Class 3A Area 1 Tournament at Clarke County.
"We came very close, but that was our story all season," Lady Tigers coach Sharon Peacock said.
What made the loss even tougher for T.R. Miller to swallow was the fact it had five leads in the third and decisive set. The last was a 12-11 advantage after a defensive kill for a point by Terri Lynne Peacock.
Prior to that edge, the Lady Tigers snapped an 8-8 tie with a defensive point and two service points from Rebekah Neal to move in front 11-8.
A key missed serve by T.R. Miller probably changed the complexion of the set. That brought Sumter County even at 12-12 and then the Lady Wildcats strung together three straight service points to end the set and match.
Serving errors probably led to T.R. Miller's downfall for the match. The Lady Tigers had 11 missed serves the last two sets.
"That really hurt. Despite our serving problems, we still almost won," Peacock said.
The third set never would have occurred had it not been for a dramatic second set victory by the Lady Tigers.
T.R. Miller faced set and match point when it trailed 24-23. Kristen Bradley kept the Lady Tigers' season alive when she posted a clutch defensive kill for a point to tie the set at 24-24.
A service ace by Courtney Krehbiel put T.R. Miller ahead 25-24, but a missed serve and a hitting violation by the Lady Tigers put Sumter County up 26-25 and on the doorsteps of victory once again.
Two hitting mistakes by the Lady Wildcats on successive plays allowed T.R. Miller to tie the set and then take a 27-26 lead. The Lady Tigers pulled out the victory when Charity Coleman posted a kill for a point.
"We showed a lot of composure to win that set when we faced set point twice," Peacock said.
The meeting with Sumter County was the second of the day for T.R. Miller at the double elimination event. The Lady Wildcats also prevailed in the opening round 25-16, 25-22.
Sumter County raced out to a 7-1 advantage in the first set before the Lady Tigers slowly recovered. T.R. Miller recovered enough to take a 13-12 lead on a four-point service string by Coleman. One of those points was an ace.
That advantage did not last long. Sumter County quickly regained control when Felicia Drummond served nine straight points with two aces to put the Lady Wildcats in firm control with a 21-12 cushion.
T.R. Miller nearly pulled out the second set in similar style to the second meeting between the teams. Sumter County led 21-17 before a defensive kill by Krehbiel and four service points by Neal put T.R. Miller ahead 22-21.
That was as far as T.R. Miller's rally would get. A defensive point by the Lady Wildcats tied the set and three service points with an ace by Sheena Love won it.
That loss sent T.R. Miller to the elimination bracket where it ousted the W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles 25-18, 25-14.
In the opener, the Lady Tigers took an early 9-3 lead before W.S. Neal rallied. With the score even at 13-13, the Lady Blue Eagles used a defensive point and two service points by Amanda Ziglar to move in front 16-13.
Krehbiel came to T.R. Miller's rescue. She posted five aces in an eight-point run that put the Lady Tigers ahead for good at 22-16.
W.S. Neal never led in the second set after a brief 2-0 advantage. However, the Lady Blue Eages were still within striking distance when a point by Jullian Crutchfield brought them within 11-10.
A key moment came when T.R. Miller had a 14-11 lead. Neal extended that advantage to 18-11 with an ace and kills by Krehbiel and Peacock.
Like the first set, Krehbiel had another strong run at service to all but finish things off. This time it was a five-point run that included four aces, which swelled the T.R. Miller lead to 24-12.
T.R. Miller finished the season with a 6-19 record.
"We won one less match than last year, but we were a lot more competitive this season. We need to work on our consistency for next season. Our hitting and serving needs to get better. One nice thing is we've got a good nucleus of girls coming back next season. I'm looking forward to it," Peacock said.