PORTLAND Portland High’s volleyball team saw its season end in the Class AAA sectional round for the fourth consecutive season with a 3-1 loss to Ravenwood on Thursday evening.
It was the Lady Panthers’ sixth sectional loss in the past seven seasons, while Ravenwood returns to the state tournament after missing out last season. The Lady Raptors will make their seventh appearance in the past eight seasons.
Five things from Thursday’s match:
Portland came out strong in the first set, never trailing to finish with a 25-19 victory. After Ravenwood won the next two sets, Portland held a 22-20 lead in the fourth before the Lady Raptors finished on a 5-1 run to clinch the match.
“We had our chances. They’re a really good team,” Portland head coach Rob Lesemann said. “They played good defense and put big blocks up. We just couldn’t pull it off. I’m very happy with the way we played. We didn’t get down after we fell behind. The fourth game I thought we were going to pull that one out. I felt like if we could get to a fifth game we would win it. They were just a little too much.”
Despite the loss, Portland completed a successful season that exceeded the expectations of many. After being picked to finish fifth in District 9-AAA before the season, the Lady Panthers went on to win the district tournament. They later rallied from 2-0 deficit against Wilson Central to become Region 9-AAA champions.
“I told them Wednesday in practice that no matter what happens, they need to hold their heads as high as they can,” Lesemann said. “I don’t think people expected us to get this far this year. They’ve exceeded expectations and have done as good as any team we’ve had here except for one. To do that they should be very proud.”
Williamson County roadblock halts Portland again
Ravenwood and Brentwood have both proved to be a roadblock for Portland in the state sectionals in the past seven years, with each school ending the Lady Panthers’ season three times during that span.
However, the Lady Panthers managed to win a set against either school for the first time. Ravenwood head coach Wendy Munzel was impressed with the Lady Panthers’ performance.
“I’m extremely proud of my team,” Munzel said. “It’s great to come out and play a team that’s as good as Portland was. I’m from Texas, so I don’t know much about the Tennessee teams, but I’m rather enjoying my trip around Tennessee. Portland was very well coached, and I’m proud of my girls for pulling through and being resilient tonight.”
Lady Raptors return to Murfreesboro
As for Ravenwood, their focus now turns to the state championships. After failing to make the state tournament last season, ending a seven-year run, the Lady Raptors remain hungry to seize the opportunity.
“It was hard to lose that first set, but I think it only motivated us more,” sophomore Laura Knott said. “I’m so excited because we didn’t go to state last year, so I’m super pumped and ready for whatever is to come. I think it’s all about our competitiveness. That’s the drive that we’re going for.”
Munzel added, “I would like to see Brentwood in the finals, but I know that you’re getting better and better teams as you’re getting closer, and so we just need to take it one day at a time. We’ll be there on Wednesday, and hopefully we’ll be playing on Thursday and Friday.”
Portland seniors’ successful run
With the season coming to an end for the Lady Panthers, this year’s class of seniors – Alexia Dorris, Bailey Thornton and MacKenzie Trouten – completed a very successful career, reaching the state sectionals in each of the past four years. As a program, Portland has reached the sectionals in six of the past seven years.
“This has been my most favorite team that I’ve ever been a part of,” Dorris said. “I’ve been playing volleyball for about 16 seasons and this has been far my favorite. This was the year that we actually had hope because we knew we weren’t going to play Brentwood, but we really worked our butts off and proved to everyone and even ourselves that we could go far. That was because of our attitudes and the amount of love that we had for each other.”