SELMA — While the final outcome may have been obvious to everyone in the building, freshman Emma Sperry and sophomore Alivia Swisher were not playing along with everyone else.
Even down two sets and trailing 24-10 in the third, Swisher dove into the scorer’s bench on the sideline and Sperry landed in the bleachers trying in vain to keep that point, and Frankton’s season, alive.
While Class 2A third-ranked Wapahani rolled to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-10) win over the Eagles, Frankton battled early and left with its heads held high, having never given up the fight.
“They’re a great team, very disciplined and very skilled,” Frankton coach Beth Sperry said. “We can’t hang our heads low. We are kind of a young team still, sky is the limit for us. We fought hard. They’re a good serving team.”
Frankton (21-11) reached the final the same way Wapahani (25-5) did, by winning a five-set match earlier in the day in the semifinal round. The Eagles outlasted Monroe Central, and the Raiders did the same with Alexandria -- both teams coming back from 2-1 deficits to advance.
Early in the championship, it seemed like another evenly matched pairing.
After the match started on a Chainey Lowe block, the Eagles grabbed a 2-0 lead. The Raiders built a five-point lead on three occasions, but when Chloee Thomas — one of four Frankton seniors — blocked Wapahani star sophomore Chloe Cook twice on the same point then put away the kill, the Eagles were back within 17-16.
Again, the Raiders pulled away to a 24-19 lead and, although Frankton fought off two match points, it could not stop the third to fall behind 1-0.
“Our passing wasn’t as good as it normally (is), and that kind of hurt us,” Coach Sperry said. “The passes got better as the night went along.”
That bore out in the second set when the Eagles jumped out to a 6-3 lead on a Makena Alexander kill. But the Raiders answered with a six-point run of their own, which was only stopped by a Holli Klettheimer block.
Trailing 18-15, Frankton handed the ball to junior Shae Simon, who promptly served up four straight points — including consecutive aces — to spur the Eagles to a 19-18 lead. But Wapahani answered with a 6-2 run and, while Frankton again stopped a pair of set points, it was the third that did it in as Cook hammered away her fifth kill for the Raiders.
After Frankton held third-set leads at 1-0 and 2-1, the momentum shifted entirely to Wapahani’s side, and the Eagles could do little to slow it down.
Thomas, who led all players with four blocks, put away her seventh and final kill for the final point of the season for the Eagles.
Thomas, along with Lowe, Abby Williams and Kenzie Fisher, will be missed by Sperry and her program.
“They’ve been fun to coach, and to surround an offense around a (player like) Chloee has been amazing,” the coach said. “And Chainey has adapted to so much. She never played back row in her life for us, and now she’s back there doing her thing. And Abby has been a constant, picking up tips for us. It’s been a great group. I’m really proud of them.”
Lowe finished with two kills, a block and an ace.
One of Frankton’s struggles Saturday was getting the ball to Thomas, at times, and freshman phenom Klettheimer, who finished with just two kills.
“When we can’t get those middles going, we’re going to struggle,” Sperry said. “When you’ve got powerhouses like Chloee and Holli, we’re going to struggle if we can’t get into the offense.”
The future is bright at Frankton as the Eagles return most of the core of this team and boast a junior varsity group that lost just two matches. Sophomore Adayna Key (seven kills), Klettheimer, junior Emma Smith (10 assists) and freshman Callie Thomas (eight assists, one ace) are among the top players returning.
“The future is bright,” Sperry said. “(If) we play a lot in the summer and in the offseason and get a lot of ball contact in the offseason, we’re going to be unstoppable.”
And the efforts of Swisher and Emma Sperry are examples of the type of heart the coach wants from her players, even if that was a scary moment for her as a coach and a mother.
“With the heart these girls have and the skills, it’s going to be fun to watch,” she said. “That play right there shows me that they have heart and are never giving up.”