The Lady Cougars played the Mill Springs Mustangs in the AAC playoffs on Wednesday afternoon. The Cougars had recently walked away from a double loss with MSA but as coaches had pointed out, all the games with the Mustangs were close and this match could be theirs if they put in the effort. With a good pre-game talk and a quick warm-up, the Cougars took the court for game one. Things began slowly for the Cougars. They would get single serves but again had difficulty keeping the serve or making consecutive ones. The ladies were behind a good portion of the set. Celeste Jeoffroy came from the bench and helped cover the court when the Cougars were in need of some consistency and quick reflexes. At 13-20, Erin McNeal came up to serve. She kicked it off with an ace and 2 additional serves, score was now 16-20. Sadly, Cougars lost possession. Erin had a nice dig in the back row helping to get the serve back. Olivia Robertson subbed in to serve. She has three serves including an ace helping bring the Cougars up the board 19-22.  A couple more servers tried to change the tide but the Mustangs won 21-25.

Game two began with the Cougar serve but again this seemed to be short-lived. Tracy Li put away an ace and serve early on. Erin’s serving again helped to build some momentum with three serves, bringing the score to 5-4. Celeste continued to shine in the backcourt with consistent passing, keeping the ball alive. Olivia subbed in and walked boldly to the serving line and made two more serves as well as a strong pass in the right back, Bella Scaff also added to the score with three serves, making it 12-13. Unfortunately, Cougars lost possession. Celeste was alive across the net, pushing it into the Mustang court. She made her way to the serving position and after 3 serves tied it up, 15-15. The recurrent loss of serve hurt the Cougars. Tracy had a great play on the net, they were not able to hold on. Mustang player #25 pushed through 10 serves that tipped the scale in Mustang favor, 16-25 final score.

Cougars earned the serve early in the third game and start with the lead. Not being able to keep the serve hurt them again, also setting the tone for the rest of game three. Some highlights were a pretty pick up by Alecta Feely after a short dink on the net and a great hit by Celeste. Mustangs eventually finished this one with final score of 15-25.

The match was over, but here is the best part. We left the court knowing we would play in the consolation match on Thursday. The brackets told us we would play the team that lost the following match. We, both coaches and players, assumed that meant we would be playing ASD. They were the #4 seed going into the tournament so we figured they would fall to the #1 seed, Howard. Later last night, we learned that ASD beat Howard. What?! This fact alone is what makes both high school and college sports one of the best experiences out there. It is truly anyone’s game no matter what your record. As Richie always says, it is the playoffs that really count, just like they did on Wednesday for ASD.

Shame on us for thinking we knew who we would play in the consolation round or who would be playing for the title. It is a wonderful reminder that you have to really want it, and then bring that fire and desire to the court or on the field. Stats do not matter, your heart to play the game does. What does this mean for the Lady Cougars? They are still in this tournament and they too can walk away with that “W” but that means they have to pull together as a team like never before and put their all into every last minute they have this season. I also have to say, I am secretly rooting for ASD, I love that they came in as #4 and could walk out with the championship. So today, after cheering for our favorite Lady Cougars, we will be Panthers fans for the rest of the evening. Go Cougars!