Mabel claims county middle school championship
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
When the middle school volleyball season started, Mabel lost its first match of the season. Sixteen matches victories later, the Mustangs are the Watauga County champs.
Mabel won its 16th straight match Thursday night with its 2-0 win over Hardin Park in the Watauga County Middle School Volleyball Tournament championship at Lentz-Eggers Gym. The Mustangs took the first game 25-15 and the second 25-16 after building a 23-11 lead.
"These girls have worked so hard for it," Mabel coach Amy Thomas said. "This is what we've worked all season for. I cannot be any more proud of them. They definitely deserve it."
Mabel (16-1) lost its first match of the season to Green Valley, which ended the season in second place. Mable rebounded from that loss by losing just one set in its 16-match winning streak (to Blowing Rock in the semifinals).
The Mustangs took big leads in both sets against Hardin Park, which finished 13-4 during the regular season, Thursday night. After Grace Hagaman forced a side out on Hardin Park's game-opening serve with a kill, the standout Mabel player served the next eight points to give the Mustangs a 9-0 lead in the first set.
Hardin Park, after falling behind 12-1, started to rally back into the match. The Eagles patiently cut Mabel's lead to 15-11 after Brana Cobb's serving ace, but Mabel got the ball back after winning a rally.
The Mustangs went up 20-12 and cruised to the set victory. Mabel's serving, provided by Hagaman, Emma Saltman and Taylor Guy, stayed consistent throughout the match.
"We've been a strong serving team all season," Thomas said. "I thought we played as a team tonight. We played really well and I'm very proud of them."
Hardin Park scored the first point of the second set on a Holly Green kill, but Mabel got the serve back on the next point and proceeded to score the next seven points to take an 8-1 lead. Hardin Park's Maddie Darner picked up three kills in an effort to rally the Eagles, but Mabel still held an 18-8 lead midway through the set.
Mabel, which scored three key points when Guy was serving, increased its lead to 23-13. Hardin Park outscored the Mustangs 3-1 down the stretch of the game, but Mabel scored the final point for the win.
"Momentum is a big aspect of middle school volleyball," Hardin Park coach Andy Eggers said. "They started out 13-0 and 13-1 that put us in a hole and it's hard to fight back from that."
Mabel, the top seed of the tournament, reached the finals by knocking off Blowing Rock 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, which was played earlier on Thursday. Hardin Park, seeded third, beat No. 2 seed Green Valley 26-24, 25-16 in the other semifinal.
The Mabel Mustangs
1. Rebeka Trivette
3. Amber Renner
4. Mackenzie Scott
5. Lillian Morsette
7. Montana Mills
8. Emma Saltman
9. Sam Stephens
10. Alice Hubbard
11. Ali Sullivan
12. Taylor Guy
14. Grace Hagaman
15. Callie Eller
17. Emma Ellis
Coaches: Amy Thomas and Allison Buckner