Lady Eagles can’t handle big girl in the middle in regional
The Lady Eagles fell in straight sets 26-24, 25-21, 25-22 in the team’s first regional tourney berth since 2005.
Lindsay (37-7) moved on to the Class A Region II final on Saturday where they swept Thrall. The Lady Knights will play in the UIL state tournament on Friday in Garland. They will face off against Region IV champion Round Top- Carmine (31-12) at 9 a.m. at Curtis Culwell Center. The 11 a.m. semifinal will see Region III champion Leon (45-2) and Region I winner Windthorst (35-8).
The two winners will play at 9 a.m. Saturday for the UIL Class A championship.
Milano finishes at 33-7 on the season, was co-champions with Thrall in District 16A and ranked as high as No. 5 in Class A statewide polls.
“I thought the girls were much more relaxed than we had been in previous playoff games and we played pretty well. I don’t know that I can say that we played our best but I think Lindsay had something to do with that,” Lady Eagles head coach Wendy King said. “ They served very well which led to some uncharacteristic bad passes. Fleitman also hit the ball at such a sharp angle that it was many times not diggable. That limited our defense a bit but still we hung in there.”
Milano led for the majority of the first set but untimely errors would keep the Lady Knights in the game and Fleitman’s kills would get them the 26-24 opening set win.
The second game was back and fourth, with the two teams tying things up 12 separate times in the set. L indsay fi nally s witched t o just setting Fleitman, where she was in the front or back row, and they were able to push ahead in the latter part of the second to take it 25-21.
Milano jumped ahead in the beginning of the final set, but could not overcome the height difference. The Lady Eagles stayed within reach, but fell in the final set 25-22
“I definitely think the height of Fleitman was probably the biggest factor in our loss. Otherwise, we played them point for point. The girls really hung in there. We had some communication problems because of the noise and the speed at which the game was being played,” King said. “At the end of game one, I thought there were a couple of plays where we made some poor decisions and I could not communicate with them quickly enough to get it fixed but that is largely due to their youth and playoff inexperience.”
Myka Morehead led Milano with 14 kills, 25 digs and a block. Halle McManess added nine kills and 18 digs and Keely LaGrone five kills and three digs. Kelly Wadlington pulled up 16 digs.
Cashlyne Blake added 20 assists, six digs and an ace. Naomi Graham put up six digs, four assists, a block and a kill. Megan Pendergrass had four assists and two digs.
“I think Lindsay has been to regionals a couple of times in recent years and their players were more experienced. They came close last year and came away disappointed so I think they were a little bit more prepared than we were,” King said. “Our girls were in a new experience and they did respond well but it came down to just a couple of points here and there and Lindsay was a bit more poised than we were.”
Milano will lose one starter and one injured reserve off its roster due to graduation. Those are libero Kelly Wadlington and Elizabeth Holt.
“I know losing Kelly will be a major blow to our team but I am hoping that two or three of the others will progress with their passing and defense and help make up for her absence. She will definitely be missed,” King said. “Although Elizabeth didn’t get to play this season due to an early season knee injury, she was a big contributor her junior year and she stayed with the team the whole season this year. She is a hard worker, a good person and a great teammate. We will miss her.”
Milano will return six from this year’s team—six who now have some big game experience.
“We will come back stronger next year. I can’t say enough about Myka and her leadership this year. She started during the summer working with our young girls and honestly our two freshman rarely if ever looked like freshman on the court. There were moments of indecision but those two girls stepped right in and played like varsity players all season. The ceiling for Naomi and Cashlyne is very high,” King said.
“Sophomores Keely and Megan also stepped up this season. Keely is energetic and positive always and really lifts everyone up with her spirit. Megan came in during district after having lost a player and became a starter and did a very good job for us. I expect that Halle and Myka, our seniors next year, will anchor our team and that hopefully we will get another opportunity to make a playoff run,” King added.
Milano only lost seven games to five teams in its 40- game schedule—3A West, 2A Franklin, 1A Iola (twice), 1A Thrall (twice) and 1A Lindsay.
Each of those teams were playing in their respective regional finals on Saturday.
This was the first time that the Lady Eagles had reached the regional tournament since 2005.
Milano has reached the regional quarterfinals (one step shy from the regional tourney) twice since its state tourney run (2002- 2005), including last season where they lost to Cayuga.
This was the 14th straight playoff appearance for the Lady Eagles in the 20 years that King has headed the program.