TOM BEAN – Songs echoed through the empty hallway as the Lady Tomcats eagerly awaited to honor their latest conquest.
Again and again the chorus – âGolden ball. Golden ball. Golden Ball â- until the sign outside the gymnasium contained the yellow volleyball cutout on which was inscribed Tom Bean’s 25-15, 25-5, 25-20 victory in third place Tioga .
More importantly for the Lady Cats, these were two other words side by side – the ones that declared them district champions.
For the second season in a row, Tom Bean has won the 16-2A crown and is set to do it again undefeated with two more wins, the final climax of the best streak in program history.
âThis is a big deal. We make a big deal out of it,â said Tom Bean head coach Dene Adams. âThey constantly want to make history. It’s another piece of history for volleyball. Tom Bean and they want to continue to add to that legacy. â
The Lady Tomcats, who had never made the playoffs before 2017 and are set to make their fifth consecutive appearance, have won 28 consecutive district appearances dating back to 2019.
âYou don’t want them to feel comfortable. I try every day to make sure they understand that they have a target on their backs, âAdams said. âEach team wants to take it away from you. They wanted to be the team to make sure you didn’t get a second straight district title.
Laramie Worley had 12 kills and eight digs, Emma Lowing had seven assists and four aces, Raylynn Adams had 28 assists, six aces, five digs and three assists, Jessie Ball finished with six assists and five blocks, Hannah Kelly knocked down six kills and Taylor Brown had 10 digs for Tom Bean (28-4, 12-0), who hosts Trenton on Friday.
Tioga (13-18, 8-4) fell tied for third place with Wolfe City and plays Wolfe City on Friday in a playoff standings battle with two games to go. A victory for the Lady Bulldogs would secure the third seed.
This fall was a solid follow-up to a season where the Lady Tomcats went 22-5 for a school record winning streak and reached the region’s semi-finals for the first time.
âWe have goals beyond the district,â Adams said. “We feel like we have some unfinished business from last year.”
Many of the key pieces have returned – Tom Bean only has two seniors on a loaded junior roster – and there are high expectations when the playoffs begin in two weeks.
Tioga will also head to the playoffs, advancing for the seventh consecutive season, but first under the guidance of new head coach Andrea Osbourn. The Lady Bulldogs’ only district losses came to the two teams ahead of them in the standings – Collinsville in second – and were looking for an upset that never materialized.
Tom Bean started each of the first two games with huge leads, but Tioga didn’t go quietly. He had a 6-3 lead at the start of Game 3 behind Gabby Ayala and Kelsee Vandagriff. Tom Bean then had a 7-0 push to get ahead, but the Lady Bulldogs tied the score at 13 on an ace from Taylor Roberts and again two points later on Vandagriff’s victory.
That’s when Tom Bean had an 8-1 run with Ball and Kailey Vick in the lead to take the 22-15 advantage.
Tioga scored four straight points for a final push to get closer to 23-20, but couldn’t extend the game as Worley had a kill and Adams put in an ace to win the sweep.
The Lady Tomcats opened the game with a 7-1 streak that was capped with kills from Lowing and Vick.
After requesting a time out, Tioga responded with a 4-0 flurry to cut the deficit to two, but the stanza-like nature quickly dissipated. Five straight points gave the home side a double-digit lead at 17-7 and the Lady Bulldogs could only narrow that margin to five at 20-15.
Adams had back-to-back aces to complete Game 1, then she started Game 2 at the service line and only left after Tom Bean opened up an 11-0 advantage.
The whole setting was great races of the Lady Tomcats. Lowing, Kelly and Worley led the initial salvo and contributed to a 6-0 push that took it to 17-2.
Ball and Kelly led another 6-0 run that saw Tom Bean lead 23-3 before Roberts hit a kill and an ace. The Lady Cats then quickly ended the game for a 2-0 lead into the game.