Playing a starting role in the Class A state championship match to playing on a team full on sophomores and freshmen.
That is what Trinity Christian Academy senior Katie Tillman experienced going from her junior season to this season.
Tillman was the lone returning starter from last year’s team that lost to Goodpasture in the title match, and the experiences of last year are hard to put into words for Tillman.
“It was all better than I ever expected,” she said. “I thought that we could reach the title game, but actually doing it is totally different. It felt like we earned it last year.”
But with five senior starters on that team, the Lady Lions would have a different look this season.
“I knew this year was going to be different,” Tillman said. “I had to step up my game and leadership. Last year, I could rely on my teammates to make the big plays. It was harder than I expected, but it pushed me to be a better player.”
Last year, the experienced duo of Clare Taylor and Lauren Schmidt were the players the team looked to when times got tough. But Tillman was the only player who returned this season with starting experience.
“Last year, we just looked to Clare,” Tillman said. “Now the girls look to me, and how do I respond to situations on the court. It is cool to see it come full circle, and I get to teach the things that I was taught when I was in their shoes.”
There are times during the early part of this season that TCA coach Kelly Elliott has as many as four to five freshmen and sophomores on the court.
“When we first started, they were nervous because most had no high school varsity experience,” Tillman said. “But they have now taken leadership roles — even as freshmen. They fix their mistakes and have matured as players quickly.”
But even with the youth of this team, Tillman still believes this team can achieve the usual team goals.
“Everyone knows that we are young this year, but we don’t want to just settle to be inexperienced,” Tillman said. “We took a set from Dyersburg, and as long as we don’t settle, we can do great things this season.
“I would love to get back to the state tournament this season, but that is not going to be given to us.”
Michael Odom, 425-9754