Lady Pirates season ends at the hands of one of area’s top programs

Garaway volleyball coach Deb Swihart knew that her Lady Pirates had their hands full in Tusky Valley, one of the premier local volleyball program that has made winning volleyball a standard for a long time.

So when the two teams got together for their Div. III district semifinal tournament volleyball game at Strasburg High School Wednesday, Oct. 28, she knew her team had to play as well as it has all season to have a shot at advancing.

The Lady Pirates gave Swihart everything she could have asked for, but in the end it wasn’t enough to take down the Lady Trojans, who picked up a 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 victory.

We gave everything we had tonight,” said Swihart of her team. “I thought we played as hard as we could and left everything out there on the floor tonight. I was proud of the way we hung in there. We came in here and worked extremely hard and stuck with our game plan.”

All three games won by Tusky Valley were eerily similar. While the Lady Trojans had the better pedigree, the Lady Pirates continued to hang in there, falling behind by four, crawling back to within one, trailing by five, creeping back to within two.

But in the end, it was just too much Kayla Hall, the Lady Trojans ferocious outside hitter, who nailed a large number of rally-killing smashes to keep her team on top. Keirrah Stewart also performed well on the outside.

Even then, Tusky Valley coach Courtney Goodwin said Garaway did a great job of defending the outside, and credited her middle hitters with excelling at the net in a game they had to.

“That was a much improved team that really challenged us,” said Goodwin. “They really challenged us tonight, which was a lot different than what we saw this summer from them. We tracked their unforced errors and they really limited them, which made us work hard for our points.”

Throughout the night, there were some long and spirited rallies, rallies kept alive by the hustling Lady Pirates, as well as Tusky Valley’s spark-plug libero, sophomore Jenna Franks, who was spilling all over the court to keep balls alive for her team.

That seemed to be infectious, as the Lady Trojans ended up sprinting off the court and even into the scorer’s table attempting to chase down errant passes and digs.

“We didn’t play our best tonight, but we were working hard,” said Franks. “That all hustle play is kind of my thing, and if it helps us play more inspired, then that’s what I’ll do.”

While Garaway bows out of the tournament at 12-13, and Tusky Valley improved to 17-4 on the season, the difference in the two records was nowhere indicative of how closely fought this battle was throughout the night.

“Our kids should walk out of here tonight knowing that they played extremely hard and gave everything they had,” said Swihart of the Lady Pirates. “We had a very hard start this year, and at one time were 1-6, so we started playing better as the season progressed, and by the end we were playing well. This was about as good as we have played all year, but Tusky Valley is just a quality team.”

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