Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High sophomore Allie Cliburn passes a serve.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High sophomore Allie Cliburn passes a serve.

WHITE HOUSE -- If the Macon County High School volleyball squad wants to take the next step this season, one of the hoops that it must jump through comes via White House Heritage.

Unfortunately for the Tigerettes, their District 11-AA counterpart has proven to be too much so far.

The Lady Patriots handed visiting Macon County a 25-17, 25-14, 25-20 setback on Aug. 28.

It was the second meeting between the two programs in four days, with White House Heritage claiming a 25-23, 25-20 victory when the two teams played in the Wipeout Tournament the previous weekend.

"They're a solid team," Tigerette assistant coach Brooke Smith said. "They have a very strong front row. They have a good defense as well. They're strong ... but they're beatable."

Smith coached the team due to the absence of head coach Shari Bowers, who was away from the team due to a death in the family.

The Lady Patriots placed second in District 11-AA last season (behind Portland, which went on to win the Class AA state title), reaching the regional tournament before falling to Camden. Camden placed fourth in AA last season.

"It's very challenging," Smith said of 11-AA. "Heritage is the team we have to beat to be seeded high. We've beaten White House. We beat Greenbrier in a tournament. We have a very tough district.

"Heritage is the hump that we just have to get over."

Senior Amanda Hagewood produced three consecutive unreturnable serves early on, placing White House Heritage in control of the opening game.

The lead swelled to as much as 15-6 following a kill from senior Lila Branlund.

However, Macon County battled back to within three (20-17) before the Lady Patriots reeled off the final five points.

Then, White House Heritage won eight of the first 10 points in game two and was never threatened.

"Our girls would make a few mistakes, and they would lean on those mistakes and wouldn't correct them," Smith said. "It brought their attitude down."

The Tigerettes responded in the third game, racing out to an 8-2 lead thanks to the serving of senior Chelsea Avila and junior Mattie Butler.

The Lady Patriots responded immediately by winning the next six points, and it remained close the rest of the way.

Back-to-back aces from senior Brooklyn Brawner followed a Butler block and a kill from senior Halle Shrum, giving Macon County a 17-15 lead.

However, moments later, White House Heritage won six consecutive points -- with Branlund and sophomore Ashleigh Shores providing kills during that stretch -- to take a 23-18 lead.

"When we come up against hard-hitting teams, we struggle," Smith said. "We can handle the defensive teams. Our defense just isn't where it's supposed to be."

Shores ended the match with another kill.

"In the third game, they came to fight," Smith said. "White House Heritage just had a little more."

Tigerette senior Gracie Andrews finished with a team-best five kills, and Shrum provided four. Avila had 14 assists.

Brawner had a team-high 13 digs, and Butler finished with 11.

The Lady Patriots improved to 12-5 overall and to 4-0 in 11-AA.