Portland volleyball make its mark with district title

Portland volleyball make its mark with district title

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Portland volleyball make its mark with district title

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From left: Portland's Alexia Dorris, McKenzie Trouten and Bailey Thornton receive their championship plaque after Thursday's District 9-AAA Tournament championship match.

From left: Portland’s Alexia Dorris, McKenzie Trouten and Bailey Thornton receive their championship plaque after Thursday’s District 9-AAA Tournament championship match.

MT. JULIET Among the many Portland fans in attendance supporting their Lady Panthers during Thursday night’s District 9-AAA volleyball championship, several could be seen wearing shirts that read “Team 28.”

It’s a phrase the team has rallied behind all season long, which they carried on against Wilson Central in the district final.

“It gives them their identity to make their mark,” Portland head coach Rob Lesemann said. “There will never be another Team 28, and they need to pay attention to it and appreciate it.”

The Lady Panthers continued to make their mark Thursday night, beating Wilson Central three sets to one to win to claim the district title.

“I’m very, very proud of my team,” Lesemann said. “We went through some ups and downs this year. We don’t match up with a lot of teams height wise but our girls just work really hard and they play more like a team this year than I can remember having.

The victory capped off a district season for Portland that exceeded expectations held by many before the season. A 10-4 regular season finish gave the Lady Panthers the No. 3 seed in the district tournament, where they beat Lebanon and knocked off second-seeded Station Camp to face fifth-seeded Wilson Central in the final.

Portland's Marlayna Burlington spikes the ball against Wilson Central during Thursday's District 9-AAA Tournament championship match.

Portland’s Marlayna Burlington spikes the ball against Wilson Central during Thursday’s District 9-AAA Tournament championship match.

“At the beginning of the season everybody told us that we weren’t going to do good,” senior Taylor Cole said. “They had us ranked fifth in our region, so it feels really good to come out and win it.”

After winning the first two sets 25-21 and 25-18, Portland played from behind in the third, losing 25-21.  The Lady Panthers responded in the fourth set by scoring the first eight points to take a commanding 8-0 lead. Wilson Central eventually battled back to tie the game at 23 before Portland scored the final two points to clinch the set and the match.

“The thing that is upsetting to not just me, but my girls as well, is that we didn’t play our best,” Wilson Central head coach Jessamyn Bradley said. “We still fought and played well, but I think we all know that there’s more left in us, which is good and bad because we have regionals coming up. So we’ve still got a little bit of improvement to do before Monday.”

Both coaches will also begin preparing for the region tournament on Monday knowing they could very well face one another again.

“I’m expecting some tough matchups in the region tournament,” Lesemann said. “Honestly I feel like we’ll play Wilson Central again. They’re getting tougher and tougher to play every time. I think that they’ll win their match and I’m confident that we’ll win ours.”

As for now, “Team 28” continues moving forward, along with the shirts that support them.

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