By Eric Butler
ROSWELL — Elida was making its first trip to the state volleyball tournament in 13 years and it showed.
With the Lady Tigers battling nervousness early, Tatum got out of the gate quickly en route to 25-9, 25-20, 25-23 victory Thursday in the first round of the Class 1A tournament at Goddard High.
“It hurts. Losing like that always hurts,” Elida senior Keisha Chenault said. “Our nerves got to us. It’ll be hard to get over this.”
Tatum coach Mike Majors said the Coyotes executed their game plan well.
“We had a good scouting report on them; we watched them a bunch of times. We’re not in their district anymore, we used to be — I wish we still were because it’s the best district in Class 1A,” Majors said. “But we got to see them three times and we took advantage of their vulnerabilities early.”
Darrell Chenault, Elida’s coach and Keisha’s father, said the Lady Tigers might not have been so vulnerable had they not been so excited at the beginning of the match.
“We were just pumped up so much. We were hitting balls that were three and four feet out-of-bounds,” Chenault said. “Catching balls up on us high. And we thought that might be our problem. We hadn’t been here and we just couldn’t get settled down.”
Elida (16-7) progressively did settle in, playing the Coyotes almost evenly with the third game a dead-heat until the final stages.
The Lady Tiger led 21-20 in the third game on a Chenault kill, but Tatum’s powerful outside hitter, Tina Burnett, countered with a kill, which was followed by an ace from Reahannon Lizardo.
Two kills by Chenault, Elida’s primary hitting weapon, kept the Tigers in the match until a final kill by Burnett sealed the Coyotes’ victory.
“We were hitting the spots early, just like we needed to. But the coach for Elida, Chenault, made some adjustments and took away some of those openings,” Majors said.
“Having played in that district, we’re familiar with the Elida kids. They’re good, hard-working farm kids,” the Tatum coach added. “They’re not quitters at all and I told my girls they would play until the final point.”
Coach Chenault said his team had no reason to be ashamed.
“Last year, we lost in five in regionals to Animas — we thought we should have been here,” Darrell Chenault said. “It’s been a long road and we’re excited to be here. We’ve got nothing to hold our head down about.”