As lethargic as Red Bank looked in the first set of the District 6-AA high school volleyball championship match Thursday at Hixson, the Lionettes led onlookers to believe they just didn't have it that day. Then suddenly, three energetic sets later they were being presented the championship plaque for the fourth consecutive year.
Red Bank's 3-1 victory over the Lady Hurricanes was by set scores of 13-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20.
Red Bank (36-8) will host the Region 3 tournament Tuesday and will play Mcminn Central in the opening semifinal scheduled at 4:30 p.m. East Hamilton (30-18) will take on the District 5 champion Polk County at about 6 and the winners will play at about 7:30 for the title.
Region finalists will advance to Thursday's state sectionals.
The Lionettes scored the first point, but the Lady Hurricanes scored the next four and never trailed again in the opening set.
"I think we were nervous, for some reason," Red Bank coach Christel Brooks said. "We played tight and East Hamilton got on a roll. It was kind of ugly on our side."
Brooks said that during the break before the next set she stressed to her troops the importance of relaxing, among other things. The Lionettes were the district regular-season champions.
"I told them, 'We're 35-8 for a reason. We deserve to be here. We need to line up, play our game and do this. If we hustle, things will go our way,'" Brooks said.
Things did start to go their way, and that led to a 13-7 lead in the second set. East Hamilton twice battled back within a point before the Lionettes pushed the advantage back to 24-18. One last charge got the Lady Hurricanes again within one, but after a Red Bank timeout one of Savannah Nelson's 10 kills in the match made it 1-1 in sets.
The Lionettes, who had four in double-figure kills led by Shelby Hayes' 13, put on a hitting display in the third set. The fourth was tied at 18 before a 4-0 run enabled Red Bank to take command and finish it.
"We played well the first game," East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir said. "We just played great all the way around. Then we made too many errors at that point. We were inconsistent. You can't be like a roller coaster."
Lenoir said she's just proud of the fact her team is still playing after going through some struggles the last two weeks. The third-seeded Lady Hurricanes got their act together in time and paid back second-seeded Central 3-0 in a tournament semifinal after losing to the Lady Purple Pounders in the regular season.
"We won Tuesday night and gave ourselves an opportunity to play again next week, which is big," Lenoir said. "We're going to take a few days off, tweak some things Monday and hopefully we'll be ready to go."
Hayes also led Red Bank with 24 digs and three aces Thursday. Abby Graham led with 36 assists and Nelson led with five blocks.
The others with double figures in kills were senior Ansley Helton, chosen the tournament's most valuable player, and Allison Walker, a sophomore with her career high.
Emma Lenoir topped East Hamilton with 14 kills, four blocks and 18 assists. Kylie Scruggs and Kennedy Fager gave support at the net with 10 and eight kills, and Morgan Phillips was the digs leader with 14.
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.