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Lady T-Birds truly deserved a state finals tripPosted Monday, November 7, 2011, at 2:13 PM
The end of the 2011 volleyball season might not have been the one the Eastern Greene Lady Thunderbirds might have wanted, but they certainly deserved to be where they finished -- at the state finals.
"Getting here was just absolutely fantastic," head coach Gina Ingram said. "So I'm not disappointed. Getting beat in three is not what we wanted to do. ...that's not the way we wanted to go out, but I'm not disappointed with anything that this group of kids has done this season."
The magic ride came to a close on the heels of a three-set loss to the No. 2 team in Class 2A all season long, the Wapahani Lady Raiders.
Throw out the fact that they were the defending conference, sectional and regional champion but also let's face it, they were probably the best team in the area for the entire season.
They won the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference title for the third time -- this year with a perfect record.
They lost only four matches throughout the regular season and they were again the favorite going into the sectional tournament.
What made the run all that more amazing to many observers was how they achieved those accomplishments -- after losing key pieces to the puzzle that had served them so well the previous season.
Sam Reed, Whitney Richardson and Rikki McCann were large holes to fill.
Reed and Richardson for their strong play at the net and McCann for a solid job of setting -- questions that weren't ultimately answered decisively until early in the season.
Simply put, what Ingram had going into the season was a team that wasn't supposed to do any or all of the things they ended up doing.
While Saturday's match wasn't the ultimate storybook ending to the Lady Thunderbirds' story for 2011, the road to Muncie could be considered as at least a storybook tale in itself.
"I like to think of us as overachievers," she said. "Sometimes you've got to root for the underdog and the underdog didn't win today.
"We came up here and these kids, I think people now know who we are and we're a group that made Wapahani say 'whoa OK.'"
Ingram was supposed to have a team that was going to take a step backwards and regroup while Scottie Ingram and Casie Divine drew more experience for a run next year and while Brittany Igel helped groom the program for the future.
She was also facing a team that was down in their total numbers. She had only nine players ultimately on the varsity roster.
"Somebody could say that we shouldn't have been here and I'm incredibly proud of all nine of my kids."I could talk all day about Brittany Igel, Kierstin Southern, all day about Casie, Scottie, Leanna Bailey, Darci Abell, Anna Jenness, Brittnee (Morris) and Payton (Gilliatt).
"I could say about those nine kids how hard they worked to get us where we are today. I'm proud of those nine kids."
And that was an achievement of note as well considering how small the Lady Thunderbird slate of players was compared to the rest of the field at Worthen Arena on Saturday.
Wapahani entered with 18, class A entrants Wes-Del (14) and Trinity Lutheran (12) had more as did 3A participants Yorktown (14) and Chatard (17) and 4A teams Penn (13) and Avon (16).
"We had only nine kids," she said. "And those nine kids worked as hard as anybody to get where they are today. And I'm just so proud of those nine kids on my roster."
Ingram expressed that the team itself was as disappointed by the way they actually played as they were the final outcome of the match.
"We didn't expect to be here, we've overachieved all season long," she said. "I thought we had some great plays, some great hustle plays.
"I don't think we, the girls, felt like it was what we wanted to do. Aside from that I felt like all season long we overachieved."
In the end it won't really make a difference to anyone who attended the match that they were the smallest or the largest overachievers in the field.
After the sting of losing the match wears off it won't even matter that they didn't win.
Instead, at least as far as I'm concerned, what will matter is the fact that they did participate.
Maybe even more than that the Lady Thunderbirds will be remembered how they participated -- as a proud group of young ladies who proved that you don't have to be the largest to be considered one of the best at what you do, you just have to do it with pride, purpose and dignity.
And that's something they did and did very well.
Rick is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487 ext. 20. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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