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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee’s Chloe Baynes attempts to set the ball to a teammate.

After knocking off St. James in the regular season, Tallassee knew it was going to have a better chance at getting to the Class 5A Area 4 championship match to extend its season. However, the Trojans shook off a slow start to defeat the Tigers 17-25, 29-27, 25-13, 25-19, Monday night, ending Tallassee’s season short of the super regional for the second consecutive season.

“We started playing safe instead of playing our game,” Tallassee coach Katie Rigsby said. “We stopped swinging and they made a few adjustments on defense that kind of shut down some of our big hitters. It came down to not being able to finish.”

After winning the first, the Tigers jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the second set as they appeared to be in control of the match. However, St. James came storming back to level the score at 15 before sending the set into a back and forth mess with both teams having multiple match points.

Tallassee led 24-22 and 27-26 but the Trojans continued to fight them off before grabbing the final three points of the set to even the match and take the momentum.

“We had opportunities to win that set and we didn’t execute how we needed to,” Rigsby said. “But I tried to be positive because at the end of the day, when that set is lost, it’s a 0-0 match. We needed to refocus and get back to playing how we were playing.”

The Tigers appeared to refocus quickly and led by three points early in the third set. St. James leveled the score quickly though and the two teams were tied 11-11 as the intensity started to rise.

The Trojans rose to the occasion and scored 14 of the next 16 points to win the set and take the life out of the Tallassee crowd.

“You can’t jump out and then just have a whole 10 points (go the other way); you mentally shut down,” Rigsby said. “We had a game plan and we executed it for the most part. They got a few that trickled off the net and they took some momentum from that but it’s part of the game.”

Tallassee’s offense was evenly spread out among the front row players. Sally Shipman led the way with six kills while Chloe Baynes added five kills.

Jordan Walters was limited to just three kills but she added two aces and two blocks. Lexi Love, Anslee Osborne and Ivory Champion each added one kill.

“I told them this is just part of it,” Rigsby said. “There’s always going to be a winner and a loser. We came out on fire but we just had too many mental mistakes. That has been our theme a lot this season. When the going gets tough, we can kind of check out a little bit.”

Tallassee finished the season with a 13-11 record, falling in the area tournament semifinals for the second straight year. Rigsby was emotional about it being the end of the road for her seniors but she is already wanting to see some extra fight from the girls coming back next season.

“I challenged my underclassmen to remember this feeling,” Rigsby said. “They will be seniors one day and they will be put in pressure situations. If they don’t want to feel like this again, that’s on their shoulders.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.