MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — So much for previous state-tournament experience being a factor.
Five local teams qualified for the TSSAA state volleyball tournament in Murfreesboro. The two programs making their first appearances won their opening matches Wednesday. The three with players who had been there before did not.
No local team was eliminated, but only Sale Creek ended up going 2-0 on the day. Not only does this mark the Lady Panthers’ first trip to the state volleyball tournament, it’s the first state appearance for any of their girls’ athletic programs. That has the town all abuzz.
“We have had a huge, huge following,” Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill said. “The student body has been great. We’ve had a great parent following. The crowd has really provided a lift for us.”
Action continues today at three locations. Championships will be decided Friday.
Class A: At Middle Tennessee State, Sale Creek swept to the winners-bracket final where it will go against Friendship Christian today at 2 p.m. EDT at Siegel. The Lady Panthers beat Loretto 25-15, 25-18, 25-19, then defeated Knoxville’s Grace Christian 25-14, 25-22, 25-23.
“They were very calm,” Hill said of her players. “I was very amazed. I think getting in all the strong tournaments we got in this year and playing all the strong teams we played made a difference coming in. We just got down to business. Our passing was great all day long. We dug a lot of balls, we were good with our passes, and that allowed us to hit.”
Erin Hill sparked the Lady Panthers with 31 kills, five blocks, 17 digs, 22 assists and five aces in the two matches. Krissy Hodge was next with 15 kills and she chipped in with four blocks and nine digs.
Megan Storey’s all-around effort for Sale Creek (49-12) included eight kills, 15 digs, 23 assists and four aces. Coach Hill praised Brooke Welch for her 13-dig, three-ace effort in the opening match and Megan Weatherford’s 17 digs were high in the second match.
Class AA: At Siegel, third-year program East Hamilton won its opener in its first state-tournament trip. The lengthy 3-2 match ended up 22-25, 25-14, 19-25, 25-22, 16-14.
Elizabeth Behrend’s 18 kills led the way and Kylie Scruggs added 16. Katie Loftin had 13 digs and Behrend had 12. Emma Lenoir led in assists with 25 and added nine kills.
“To never have been here before and see them battle like that and win a hard-fought match, I’m very proud of them,” East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir said.
The Lady Hurricanes then took a set from defending champion Page before losing 25-12, 25-12, 24-26, 25-18.
Red Bank came back from a 3-1 loss to Goodpasture by scores of 24-26, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21 and defeated Chester County 3-0. Game scores were 25-16, 25-9, 25-18.
That sets up a matchup between District 6 rivals Red Bank (36-17) and East Hamilton (33-11) today at 11 a.m. EDT at MTSU.
“They’re scrappy,” Red Bank coach Christel Brooks said of the Lady Hurricanes, who the Lady Lions beat for the district championship but lost to in the Region 3 championship match. “We’re going to have to be on our game, be aggressive and ready to go. They’re peaking at the right time.”
Danielle Moore topped Red Bank with 28 kills in the two matches and had 30 digs. Rachel Hargis led in digs with 36 and Abby Graham totaled 52 assists.
Class AAA: At MTSU, for the second consecutive year Soddy-Daisy lost to Independence in the first round. Game scores this time were 25-16, 17-25, 25-17, 26-24.
“For the most part it was back-and-forth, back-and-forth,” Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. “We just didn’t finish it off. We knew we had to have a high-execution offense to win. The rallies were long and hard. We won a few long rallies. They won a few more.”
Rachel Shaughnessy had 14 kills for the Lady Trojans and Kelsey Nunley added 11 along with matching Sarah Davis with 25 digs. Olivia Holden had 35 assists.
Soddy-Daisy (52-10) defeated Collierville, 25-21, 25-15, 26-24 in a late match. The Lady Trojans will play Sullivan South today at Blackman at noon EDT.
Division II-AA: At Blackman, Baylor rebounded from a 3-1 loss to St. Agnes and beat St. Benedict 3-0. Game scores in the Lady Red Raiders’ loss were 29-27, 16-25, 25-20, 25-14. Game scores in their victory were 25-20, 25-22, 25-18.
St. Agnes plays Ensworth today at MTSU at 11 a.m. EDT. Baylor (30-13) plays the loser afterward at 12:30.
“Our passing was a little off in the first match,” Baylor coach Sarah Lail said. “Anytime your passing is off, your offense is going to suffer.”
Lail added her team’s errors in the opening match were correctable and said her players responded well in the second match. Baylor (30-13), a third-place finisher each of the last two seasons, lost its tournament opener for the third consecutive year and each time has won the next match.
Lail credited Nicole Sumida for leading the turnaround and said others gave good support. Combined, Sumida ended up with 21 kills, nine and a half blocks and 27 digs and she served five aces against St. Benedict.
Rachel Travis led Baylor in kills with 30 and she had 23 digs. Megan Kaylor was the assists leader with 33 and she also contributed 12 digs and four aces.