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Minutes after watching Williamstown lose a heartbreaking defeat to Walton-Verona, the Grant County Lady Braves followed, dropping two sets to Owen County in the 32nd District Tournament Oct. 12.
On the last play of the game that sealed the victory for Owen County, the ball was set by senior Paige Elliott, but instead of the ball going forwards, the ball went behind her landing on the ground. The game ended the high school volleyball careers of five seniors.
Tears began to fall immediately down Elliott’s cheeks. It was a heartfelt moment for a team that had improved from a four-win season in 2010.
“It was great to see us come together as a team tonight on our last game, because I am really going to miss it,” Elliott said about the team falling just short of winning the second set against Owen County. “We weren’t always like that and for us to come together even with our differences, it was great to share that bond together.”
The seniors on this year’s team were freshmen when coach Kelli Lee became the volleyball coach in 2008.
“It is hard to see them go,” Lee said. “We have put a lot of hours in the gym and I feel like they are my own. I will miss them.”
The team’s goals were to make it to regionals for the first time since 1996, when teams received an automatic bid to regionals. This was in the infancy of volleyball at the thigh school level.
The Oct. 12 loss kept Grant County from making the district championship game and an automatic bid into the regional tournament. The loss was so rough on the seniors, that they didn’t say much in the locker room.
“We were all freshmen together, including Coach Lee,” Elliott said. “We grew together.”
Lee said it was hard to see her first group of freshmen end their high school careers with this kind of loss, but also because they all grew the program together.
“The overall experience of being together and sharing that ride these past four years, it is going to be hard to not come back,” Elliott said. “I am really going to miss it.”
Willoughby, the vocal leader of the senior class, had no words to describe the aftermath of the loss.
“I actually didn’t realize that it was over,” she said. “I looked over to Paige and saw her face go down and I knew then it was over. It was horrible. I didn’t know what to say.”
Even with the loss of the seniors, Lee said she sees this program growing after this season.
“We’ve got a lot coming back next year,” she said “I am looking to Raven Wilson, Taylor Cummins and Mariah Smith to be the leaders next year.”