After upsetting 3A powerhouse Alcorn Central last week by forcing them into four sets for the second time all year, optimism ran rampant for the Lady Mustangs coming into their final week of the season, despite being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
They started the homestretch on Monday, viciously but quickly clipping the Falkner Eagles, a 1A playoff team, in straight sets (25-5, 25-9, and 25-13) to celebrate their lone senior Cameron Massey and exchange student-athlete Elena Dabrio in grand fashion for their final home game.
The real object of affection was division foe Kossuth, who narrowly escaped Mantachie weeks prior in a five set fiasco that ultimately decided the division, though nobody knew it at the time.
The expected champions, Alcorn Central, had to forfeit a game to Kossuth due to COVID-19 protocols, which allowed Kossuth to claim a share of the division crown by default, crushing the Lady Mustangs’ playoff hopes after their hard fought losses to the Lady Bears, so Tuesday’s match was personal since it was originally intended to determine the region’s second playoff team.
As fate would have it revenge was not in the cards for Mantachie after a hard but very successful season left them with little reward to play for Tuesday, dropping straight sets (13-25, 21-25, and 17-25).
As a silver lining the Lady Mustangs were in each of the last two sets, storming back from down 12-20 in the second set to up 21-20, before being called for breaking rotation on a clerical error at the score table, rather than a blunder by the players themselves.
The hiccup was enough to flip the tables back to Kossuth’s favor in their hotbed hostile environment, taking the second with four straight points. Mantachie took an early 7-2 lead in set three, but succumbed to 7-7 and tried to play catch-up the rest of the way but to little avail.
Finishing the year with an overall record of (17-5) there is no reason for the Lady Mustangs and their fans to view this season as anything but a success. Graduating from a friendlier 2A region into one of the toughest divisions in the state, with a pair of 20-game-winning teams is an incredibly hard ask, but they held their own the entire stretch, finishing in MaxPreps’ Top 10 standings for 1A, 2A, and 3A teams throughout the entire state.
Aside from leading hitter Cameron Massey, the team will return its entire nucleus, including fellow hitters Alexis Leach and Bailey Coker, along with libero Hailee Spigner and setters Ramsey Montgomery and Katie Johnson, all of whom are gathering club ball experience in the offseason and have drawn attention from collegiate scouts.