By Brian Bloom
The Bartlett Panthers used the heady play of senior Jessie Gullette to go with super sophomore Kenzie Fields to dump the Collierville Dragons in the best three out of five and take Region honors. Bartlett came out on top in the roller coaster action 25-18, 22-25, 25-15, 21-25, 15-11 to advance to Class AAA state volleyball tournament play.
The Panthers will travel to Murfreesboro Wednesday when they open tournament play against perennial power Brentwood. Game time is 9 a.m.
The 23rd ranked Panthers are 24-5 on the year and used their home court advantage as a large and vocal student body was credited with being the difference in the game. They will need that support and more Wednesday.
“They (Brentwood) have probably won more state titles than we’ve been there, and we’ve been there a lot, coach Sherrie Walker said. Bartlett’s last visit to the state tournament was in 2002. Their best finish was third in 1999.
Youth is the best description for this over-achieving group. Two freshmen and three sophomores go with three juniors and a lone senior among the most visible varsity.
Senior Jessie Gullett leads Bartlett, and, according to the coach, typifies the team.
“I think our real strength is our serving and our intangibles,” Walker said. “We play with a lot of heart and that helps in all aspects of the game.”
Juniors Demi Chipman, Alexus Luster and Hannah Brereton are joined by a quintet of underclassmen.
Six feet, one-inch Kenzie Fields leads a sophomore class that includes libero Lindsey Farrell and Christine McGarry. Freshmen Abigail Warmack and Claudia Frentz also see considerable playing time.
In facing one of Tennessee’s elite programs in the opening round of the double elimination tournament, coach Walker has only one goal.
“”You know, you can’t teach tall and you can’t teach fast. I only hope we play to the maximum of our ability and the girls give it their all.”