In relative terms, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Smith-Cotton Lady Tigers came to their own Smith-Cotton Lady Tiger Invitational, went through the motions of getting through their matches and headed home by noon.
What has taken place in the last two years in the Lady Tiger program is nothing short of miraculous. First, Kristin Miller was named the new Lady Tiger head coach and she began to slowly put the pieces of a winning program together.
Then last year, Darla Lansing was hired away from Applewood Christian School to become Miller’s assistant.
Together, those two put together a summer traveling league, something that has been needed for a long time.
Then players like Abby Knight, Cynthia Perez, Lauren Lansing, Maddy Foster, Hannah Woolery, Courtney Koetting, Kali Edwards and Bailey Curry drifted up into the program from what had once been a successful junior high program.
Usually bowing out of their tournament early, S-C was there from start to finish Saturday, falling to a strong, physical Fatima Lady Comets team 25-19, 25-21 in the championship match, the Lady Tigers’ fifth match of the day.
Grain Valley downed Santa Fe in the third-place match of the two-pool, eight-team tournament.
S-C kicked off the long day with a 25-18, 25-20 win over Kaysinger Conference foe Lincoln, then swept Santa Fe 25-14, 25-14 and split with Higginsville, winning the first game 25-17 and suffered their only blemish in pool play with a 25-21 loss in the second game.
That left S-C with a 5-1 record in pool play and earned the top seed in the Black Pool for the bracket portion of the tournament.
Haley Gleason had seven kills and five digs against Lincoln. Knight had two kills, Foster two aces and Perez six assists.
In the win over Santa Fe, Knight had seven kills and two blocks, Curry had six kills, two blocks, two aces and seven assists, Foster had two aces and nine assists. Perez had a team-high 18 digs.
Against Higginsville, S-C led 6-1, 12-6 and 23-19 in the first game and held on to win. In the second game, S-C led 6-1, 10-1 and 15-6 only to see it disappear in their lone pool-play loss.
In the first round of bracket play, S-C met Grain Valley, the second seed in the Gold pool behind Fatima, and coasted to a 25-27, 25-21, 25-14 win over the two-time defending tournament champion Lady Eagles.
The win advanced S-C into the championship match against Fatima, located in Westphalia, Mo., about 35 miles southeast of Jefferson City on Highway 63.
The Lady Comets, with four strong hitters all in the 6-foot range, were just too strong for S-C winning 25-19, 25-21 as the Lady Tigers appeared to be tiring. Their legs went despite big comebacks in both games.
Knight and Gleason were named to the All Tournament Team.
It was the second tournament of the season for S-C, winning the Higginsville Spikefest and finishing second in their own tournament Saturday. The Lady Tigers got used to winning this summer when they won the Eldon Shootout and won Division II of the Branson Tornament.
S-C stands 13-3-2 on the season.