On a night that started with thunder, lightning and tornado warnings, the Tioga Lady Bulldogs created a storm of their own as they claimed victory in their first-ever playoff game.
The game was delayed as the Lady Bulldogs hunkered down for cover at the North Shore Fire Department in an attempt to dodge the fierce storms that blew through the area before the game.
Once the skies cleared, Tioga made it to the game and showed they would be a force to be reckoned with as they dispatched the Dodd City Lady Hornets in four games.
The Lady Bulldogs started slowly, losing the first game 20-25.
They stormed back, sweeping the next three games 25-17, 25-21, and 25-16 to claim the area championship.
“It means the world to us,” said senior Kari Hughes. “We have worked hard every single day to be here. We want to keep playing. We want to get five more wins,” she said.
It took the Lady Bulldogs a little bit of time to hit their stride, but when they did, the hit it as a team.
“I was nervous about the slow start – but just a little bit,” said Tioga coach Mindy Patton. “ We are young in the fact that we have not been in this position before, but I was confident they would play through their nerves.”
Tioga fell behind by six points in game one, but charged back when Dodd City started making mistakes.
A tip by Andrea Perez tied the score at 17, and the Lady Bulldogs were right back in the game.
Lindsay Carter led the Lady Hornets to the game one win with three kill and a tip, while Fallon Hilliard added an ace.
Tioga came right back in game two.
Perez put down a pair of kills as the Lady Bulldogs began to pull away from Dodd City.
After a timeout by the Lady Hornets, Verenise Aguirre found the floor with her hit to give Tioga a 20-13 lead.
Brittany Barnett gave Tioga the win when she put down a kill after Perez made a diving dig.
With the match tied at one, the momentum had shifted towards Tioga.
“It’s a game of momentum. Once we got it, their emotions got away from them. We took advantage of that,” said Patton.
As Dodd City grew more frustrated, the Lady Bulldogs grew more confidence.
Tioga stormed to a quick lead in game 3 behind the hitting of Perez and Hughes.
Destini Maness tip doubled up the Lady Hornets 10-5, and Tioga never looked back.
Sammi Holcomb’s kill gave Tioga a 14-7 lead, and another kill by Perez gave the Lady Bulldogs their largest lead of the game at 17-9.
Dodd City tried to battle back, and pulled to within 3 before Barnett made a diving dig on defense to keep the play alive.
The Lady Hornets put the ball in the net to give Tioga the point.
After another net ball, Perez frustrated Dodd City even more with another diving dig. Again they put the ball in the net and the Bulldogs had a 20-14 lead.
Paityn Glaze gave the Lady Bulldogs a game point and fittingly, the game ended on another net ball by Dodd City.
Tioga fell behind early, but battled back to take the lead behind the serving of Barnett, the blocking of Hughes, and the hitting of Perez.
Barnett had 10 serves in a row, including a pair of aces that kept Dodd City at bay.
When Hughes blocked Carter, the Lady Hornets were obviously frustrated and called a timeout to regroup.
The Lady Hornets put the next two balls in the net as their frustration grew.
A pair of kills by Hughes, followed by an ace from Barnett gave Tioga a 20-11 lead and the excitement was growing for the Lady Bulldogs.
When Holcomb put down a kill for Tioga, the Lady Bulldogs had a match point and were on the brink of making history.
When the final shot from Perez hit the floor, the Lady Bulldogs erupted with joy.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Hughes.
Perez was the thunder for Tioga with 19 kills in the match. Hughes was the lightning with 13 more.
Maness and Holcome each had 8 kills for the Lady Bulldogs.
Barnett had 22 assists, while Luz Mendez added 17 helpers for Tioga.
“Tonight, once we got going, everyone contributed. When I look at the positives from the match they come from everywhere. It was not just one or two players, it was the whole team,” said Patton.
She then seconded the thought from Hughes. “We all want more,” she said. “We are making memories, and we want to make more.”