Area TSSAA District Volleyball Tournaments
Monday (all times EDT)
• 5-AAA at Walker Valley: Cleveland vs. Walker Valley, 4:30; Rhea County vs. Bradley Central, 6; McMinn County vs. Ooltewah, 7:30
• 7-AA at Sequatchie County: Grundy County vs. Sequatchie County; Bledsoe County vs. Chattanooga Christian, 6
• 6-AA at East Ridge: Howard vs. Red Bank; Brainerd vs. Hixson, 5; Tyner vs. East Hamilton; East Ridge vs. Central, 6:30
• 6-A at Lookout Valley: South Pittsburg vs. Lookout Valley, 4; Richard Hardy vs. Marion County, 5:30; Van Buren County vs. Whitwell, 7
• 5-A at Arts & Sciences: Copper Basin vs. Grace Academy, 4; Copper/Grace winner vs. Boyd-Buchanan, 5; Arts & Sciences vs. Silverdale Baptist, 6
Three volleyball teams in District 6-AA have won 20-plus matches. Those same teams entered the season with aspirations of advancing past district-tournament play, which will be taking place this week for TSSAA Division I teams.
One of them will not.
Red Bank, Hixson and East Hamilton are the top three seeds in the tournament at East Ridge, which starts Monday with the Lady Lions taking on Howard and Hixson's Lady Wildcats facing Brainerd at 5 p.m. The Lady Hurricanes will play Tyner at 6:30, when East Ridge and Central also square off as the fifth- and fourth-seeded teams.
The teams that play in Thursday's championship match will advance to the Region 3 tournament next week. According to seedings, the advantage this week goes to regular-season champion Red Bank, which was 25-12 before this weekend's Middle Tennessee Classic.
If the seedings hold form, East Hamilton (27-9) and Hixson, 24-17 heading into the Middle Tennessee Classic, would meet in one of Tuesday's elimination semifinals. They have split two meetings, the Lady Hurricanes winning a best-of-three match in the Tennessee Tandem tournament before the Lady Wildcats won the best-of-five league meeting, both going the maximum number of games.
East Hamilton, a third-year program, is led at the net by Elizabeth Behrend. Libero Katie Loftin, the team's other senior, leads in digs. Serving is a Lady Hurricanes strength and those two, junior Morgan Phillips and eighth-grader Emma Lenoir, the coach's daughter, lead the way.
"They're a very solid team," Hixson coach Janet Tate said. "There are not too many holes back there. If we meet again we'll have to play smart and be aggressive, which is what we did the last time. They've got some very young people in some key positions. They've not been in this situation much. It's different come tournament time."
Senior Katie Ware was leading Tate's Lady Wildcats in kills with 430 before the weekend, and junior Kennady Thomason led in blocks with 146. Chance Davis was first in assists (739) and second in aces (76), and fellow junior Ashley Knudtson has sparked the defense (565 digs).
"They're scrappy," East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir said. "They get a lot of balls up. When we played them and lost in five, there were a lot of long rallies. The last week or so I feel we're playing a lot better. It's still a matter of us being a new school, learning to play hard and believing in ourselves, no matter who's on the other side."
Going into the weekend tournament, the Lady Lions had gotten a combined 793 kills from junior Savannah Nelson and senior Danielle Moore with Nelson also leading the team in blocks (105) and aces (63). Sophomore Abby Graham was leading in assists with 946, and coach's daughter Ansley Helton had a team-high 618 digs.
"We accomplished what we wanted to do in the regular season by finishing first," Red Bank coach Christel Brooks said. "We're the defending champion, two years running. I like our chances in the tournament. The girls are real confident, but it's not going to be easy. Central or East Ridge are not any cakewalks."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.