Sixth-seeded Walker Valley showed Monday what a deep league District 5-AAA is in volleyball. But it was third-seeded East Hamilton that survived and advanced.
The Lady Mustangs pushed the Lady Hurricanes to the limit before the latter escaped with a 3-2 victory in one of three first-round matches in the high school tournament at Ooltewah. Set scores were 16-25, 25-10, 25-13, 24-26, 15-10.
"This is a very strong distrct," East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir said. "You've got to come ready. You better bring it every single night or it will not end up well for you."
Action began Monday with fourth-seeded Cleveland edging fifth-seeded Bradley Central 3-2. Set scores were 21-25, 25-15, 25-23, 18-25, 15-3.
Second-seeded Soddy-Daisy defeated seventh-seeded McMinn County 3-0 in the final match. Set scores were 25-5, 25-11, 25-22.
Semifinals are today with Cleveland (21-21) taking on top-seeded Ooltewah at 5 p.m. and East Hamilton (25-16) playing Soddy-Daisy (40-16) at about 6:30.
The championship match is Wednesday at 6. Both finalists move on to next week's Region 3 tournament.
Once it broke a tie at 1, Walker Valley (18-18) led the rest of the first set against the Lady 'Canes. But the next two sets were a complete reversal with East Hamilton reaching double-digit leads at 13-3 in the second and 21-11 in the third.
However, the Lady Mustangs were able to regroup and win the fourth set.
"The game plan we had worked very well in the first set," Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett said. "We just didn't execute in the next few. I'm proud of the girls for how hard they fought back toward the end."
It was 10-10 in the fifth set before East Hamilton was able to close it out.
"They played determined," Lenoir said. "I reminded them this is why in the summer you run those sprints in the heat. It pays off. They showed a lot of character and a lot of heart."
East Hamilton was led at the net by Emma Lenoir's 21 kills and Meredith Stott's 2.5 blocks. Sydney Harris totaled 30 assists, Kris Joo made 27 digs and Briley Considine served three aces.
Marissa Langford sparked Cleveland with 33 kills and four blocks. Kellee Geren had 39 assists for the Lady Raiders and Eva Wilhelm made 35 digs. She also had four aces, as did Abbie Strode.
"I think we're peaking at the right moment," Cleveland coach Trish Flowers said. "That doesn't change the fact we're playing a really tough team tommorro, but it was nice not to have to go home tonight."
Soddy-Daisy's leaders included Haley Reynolds with 10 kills and three blocks. Lauren Smith also had three blocks and led with 14 digs. Chole Mitchell was the assists leader with 22 and Karigan Fulghum served six aces.
"We started out with solid passing and had power and put the ball down," Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. "We pretty much dominated the first two, but give them credit in game three. They fought hard and stayed ahead most of the game."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.