East Hamilton's 3-1 volleyball win over host Red Bank on Tuesday night was such an emotional one, Lady Hurricanes coach Kristy Lenoir cried.
"I've played and coached in a lot of ballgames," Lenoir said. "I've never been more proud of a group of girls."
East Hamilton (32-18) will host Notre Dame on Thursday in a state sectional at 7 p.m. Red Bank (37-9) will play at Region 4-AA champion Signal Mountain, which beat Notre Dame 3-1 after rallying from a two-set deficit to edge Livingston Academy at Livingston.
In a rematch from last year's region-championship match, East Hamilton dropped the first set 23-25, then won 25-19, 25-17, 25-16. Both teams won their sectionals last year and advanced to the state tournament, where the Lionettes finished third.
"Hopefully we can use this like we did last year," Red Bank coach Christel Brooks said.
The semifinals Tuesday both were sweeps. Red Bank defeated McMinn Central 25-2, 25-13, 25-8 and East Hamilton beat Polk County 25-14, 25-13, 25-13.
Lenoir said among the things that made the championship victory so sweet was that her team was in disarray about two weeks ago.
"We've been to the bottom of the barrel and back," Lenoir said. "Literally we doubled our losses in about 10 days."
Although East Hamilton beat the Lionettes in the Choo Choo tournament early in the season, Red Bank won the regular-season district meeting and the District 6 championship match last Thursday at Hixson.
"Red Bank is a great team with a lot of wins under their belt," Lenoir said. "We were sick of losing to them. Last year this game was huge for us. We won here last year. They knew they could do it. They wanted to do it. We're an emotional team. Sometimes you can live by that or you can die by that. Thank the Lord we showed up."
Freshman Emma Lenoir, the coach's daughter, not only showed up but took home the tournament's most-valuable-player plaque after producing 22 kills, 26 assists and six digs in the championship match.
Emily Clemmons led the Lady Hurricanes with 25 digs. Briley Considine led with five aces and Meredith Stott led with four blocks.
Red Bank trailed late in the first set before rallying to win. Brooks said things were going her team's way at that point.
"After that we played well in spurts but not consistently," Brooks said. "When they get going in their offense they're hard to stop. We didn't have an answer for all their offense."
Shelby Hayes sparked the Lionettes with 19 kills, and Savannah Nelson added 16. Autumn Babb had a team-high 26 digs.
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.