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NEW CASTLE -- There were few tears after Collins ended Anderson County's volleyball season last Tuesday night. The Titans might have been the best team the Lady Bearcats had faced all year so their 25-11, 25-16 win in the 30th District Tournament at Henry County High School was not unexpected.
If anything, the contest underscored what most observers had known for some time: The Lady Bearcats that lost 11 of their last 13 matches were not the same group that had been picked in the top five of the Eighth Region before the season started.
It was painfully obvious against a Collins team that used deft passing and a powerful game at the net to advance to the regional tournament in the school's first year of existence.
"They are pretty good," Anderson coach Bob Hardin said of the Titans.
Pretty good? Collins entered the regional tourney at 22-2 after defeating Shelby County in the district final.
Tuesday, Hardin sighed as he looked at his stat sheet.
"Thirty-one passing errors," he said. "You are not going to beat a good team with that many errors."
The errors weren't limited to passing either. There were crucial points that fell between two confused Anderson players.
"We didn't talk to each other," Hardin sighed, as if to underscore a point he has been driving home all season. "We never learned to talk with each other."
As with any team, there were balls hit too long or into the net. And after the Lady Bearcats had made things interesting for a while in the second game, Collins took the lead for good when an Anderson player was called for being in the net.
Collins responded by running off seven more points behind Megan Russell's serve.
Collins built a 17-9 lead and the Lady Cats were never closer than five points the rest of the way.
"We just lost focus," Hardin said. "I can't fault the girls for how they played. They played hard."
But simply playing hard again pointed to the fact that the team on the floor last Tuesday was much different than the one that took the floor against Franklin County on Aug. 10.
For one thing, Anderson lost it's only returning starter, Chelsea Payne, to a knee injury early. Payne was then injured in an auto wreck but did return to take in games. She was on the bench at Henry, but not available to play.
"Losing Chelsea hurt a little," Hardin said in a major understatement.
Some others that started the season with the team were no longer playing by tourney time. The Lady Bearcats finished at 9-19.
"We are very young. We don't have a senior (playing at season's end). We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores."
And expectations will be for Anderson to return to form. The Lady Bearcats had made five straight regional tournament appearances before last week's district elimination.
And Hardin says his team will be working on that return to glory "as soon as possible."
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.