ORE CITY — Things have changed quickly in the Tatum Lady Eagle volleyball program. The wins are piling up and, on top that, the mentality has changed.
Both were evident on Thursday night in Ore City.
Two days after notching a bi-district sweep, Tatum steamrolled past Mount Vernon in straight sets (25-9, 25-13, 25-18) in a Class 3A, Region II area round playoff at Ore City High School.
“I just saw a team that is playing with a lot of consistency,” Tatum head coach Leven Barker said. “And a whole lot of confidence.”
It was a second-round rematch from a year ago that saw the Mount Vernon end Tatum’s season — the first under Barker at Tatum — at 31-7. Thursday night left little doubt from the start.
“We’re just playing so much better defensively and, more importantly, we’re mentally tougher,” Barker said. “That’s the biggest thing. Last year in this game, we were talented but we weren’t tough mentally. When things got tight on us, we fell apart.
“Tonight and throughout the season, we never let that happen. That’s what we’ve been pushing for over the past 12 months.”
With the win, Tatum moves to 31-10 on the season and onto the regional quarterfinal for the first time since 2010. The Lady Eagles will take on Commerce, which dispatched Sabine in five sets elsewhere on Thursday, with a time and location to be announced.
Progress is what senior Essence Allen sees from a young lineup.
“We’ve definitely grown since the first day, we were not that good,” Allen said. “I’m really proud of our progress. We’re talented and have a chance to go all the way, I feel.
“We’ve worked hard and it’s showing.”
Allen did her thing against the Lady Tigers, who conclude their season at 24-10, with a team-high 14 kills, six digs and three blocks.
She added two aces behind four from McKensi Greenwood in an area that the Lady Eagles dominated. Kaylei Stroud added two more and Summer Dancy-Vasquez and Abbey Sorenson added one each. Tatum had one service error through the first two matches and two in the third.
“There were some things we felt like we could do to keep the ball away from their best player and we did that from the serving line,” Barker said. “Great job on that.”
Added Allen: “Our serves were better than they’ve ever been. After that, we played good defense and played our game.”
Kayla Jones had seven kills to go with seven blocks in a strong night at the net alongside Ramaya Davis, who added three blocks of her own.
Stroud, a freshman, rounded out her night with seven kills and seven digs. Sorenson fed it all with 25 assists and had five digs defensively.
In the first, the Lady Eagles jumped to a 7-2 lead and then used a 15-1 run with Allen and Greenwood at the line to take control in a dominant 25-9 win. Greenwood had three aces in her 9-0 run.
Mount Vernon, led by a big night from Bailey Thomas, who had eight kills and three blocks, battled early in the second to a 6-all tie. Tatum then pulled away with a 7-0 run from Allen at the line for a 21-10 lead. Stroud and Jones combined for four kills the rest of the way in a 25-13 win. Stroud capped it with an ace.
It was much of the same in the third with Tatum racing to an 18-6 lead. Mount Vernon didn’t go quietly as the Lady Tigers, for the first time all match, strung together more than a 3-0 run with six-straight facing match point.
Stroud capped the 25-18 win with a kill to send the Lady Eagles on to round three.