The Lady Tigers volleyball season came to an end Wednesday, Oct. 6, as the team was unable to make it out of the first round of the Region 7-3A tournament.
Needing two wins to advance to Thursday’s portion of the bracket, the Lady Tigers only won one game, while losing two, eliminating them from the GHSA 3A State Volleyball tournament.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted, but we accomplished a lot,” Lady Tigers head coach Tanya Porter said. “Because of what we were able to accomplish this year, we’ve been able to improve in multiple areas. Most importantly, we grew in skill, team chemistry and dynamics. The team knows my expectations as a coach and their own strengths and weaknesses to make gains moving forward.”
The Lady Tigers started the tournament as the No. 3 seed after going 5-2 during region play in the regular season. Their first match against the No. 6 seed West Hall did not go as planned, with the Lady Tigers falling in two straight sets.
The region tournament being double elimination, Dawson moved to the loser’s bracket, where they needed to win two games to clinch a spot in the state tournament. A close, two-set win against Gilmer High School sent the Lady Tigers to the clinching game against Cherokee Bluff, one of the two teams Dawson lost to in the regular season.
After taking a quick 4-0 lead in the first set against Cherokee Bluff, the Lady Tigers could never regain any footing and lost in two sets 17-25, 12-25.
“Our mental toughness has to improve,” Porter said. “When you’re a talented team, you will lose games because you don’t have the grit or the mental strength to get through the close ones. We saw flashes this year, but we need to be more consistent in our mental toughness.”
Junior Abby “Canada” Felkai led the team in kills (17) and assists (17) for the three games of the tournament. Felkai was just one ace (6) away from the team-leader Abby Clouser (7) on Wednesday’s action. Clouser was second on the team in assists (14) and both junior Jessie Mann and sophomore Meghan Roche reached double-digit kills through the three games.
Graduating from the team are two seniors: Emma Pelfrey and Avery Herring. Pelfrey ended her career with 217 kills and 40 blocks. Herring missed the entire 2020 season with injury and finished her career with 69 kills and 20 blocks. Porter mentioned both of these players as key components to the team’s fluidity on and off the court this season.
“For the first time, we kind of have a strong culture,” Porter said. “We’re finally seeing what we want our program to be. In girls sports, confidence is a huge thing. It comes and goes, but most of the time this season, the team knew they could compete with any other team in the gym.”
Mann, along with junior libero Emerald Sailee were recognized before the Lady Tigers’ game against Cherokee Bluff as members of the 2021 All-Region team. Sailee led the team in digs (204) and Felkai led the team in kills (185), assists (283) and aces (73).
The team improved drastically on their overall record from just a year before, winning 19 games as opposed to only eight games in 2020.
“Overall, we’ve grown so much as players and people this season,” Porter said. “Skills wise, our blocking has gotten so much better, along with our ability to pass the ball. The ability to do that allows the coaching staff to create more complex plays. The team’s ability to take constructive criticism has grown due to another year of gaining maturity. This team wants to get better.”