Not much Thursday at Red Bank rivaled the comeback the host team made in the fourth set of the District 6-AA high school volleyball championship match -- except maybe the way Central responded to it.
Momentum swings between the host Lionettes and Lady Purple Pounders were convincing, but Central managed to have the last one and defeated Red Bank 3-2 for its first district title since the 1990s. Set scores were 25-18, 17-25, 25-19, 26-28, 15-12.
Both teams will move on to the Region 3 tournament Tuesday at Central. The Lady Pounders (27-11) will play the District 5 runner-up and Red Bank (19-24) will face the District 5 champion in semifinal matches.
Region finalists qualify for next Thursday's state sectionals, where the winners will advance to the state tournament in Murfreesboro.
"I was proud of them, regardless of the loss," Red Bank coach Mandi Munn said. "We could still have a sectional at home, depending on how things play out on Tuesday. You've got to bring your game from here on out, no matter who's on the other side."
Central in the first and Red Bank in the second had command early on in those sets. The third was tight with Central taking the lead for good at 12-11 before slowly pulling away.
In the fourth it looked as though the Lady Pounders were in cruise control with a 16-4 lead. Then a 4-0 run pumped some life back into the Red Bank crowd, but not nearly as much as the 9-0 run a little later that trimmed the deficit to 22-20.
"Red Bank has a great team," Central coach Robin Moore said. "We're both in the championship game for a reason. We've both got good athletes. You can't ever let up."
The Lionettes held off triple set-point on the way to taking their first lead at 25-24. Then they cashed in set point the third time they got there.
"I've never seen a comeback like that -- out of timeouts, nothing left to try and break the momentum. They totally did that all on their own," Munn said of her players.
Despite falling behind 8-4 in the fifth set, the Lady Pounders found a resurgence. Ultimately one of Tiffani Estep's 29 kills broke a tie at 12, and Central finished it from there.
"There wasn't any doubt: We were going to win," Estep said. "The spirit of our coaches means so much to us. All of us love each other and we're all so close.
"We knew we were going to have to work hard, but we wanted to win it."
Estep also had six blocks and 20 digs and was selected the tournament's most valuable player.
"Not only is she a great athlete, she's a great leader," Moore said. "She's very smart. She can read the defense, read the blocks. Another thing is she was sick and running a fever. But she was determined to come out here and be everything for her team. I've been tremendously blessed to have coached her."
Chasidy Ainslie was Central's assists leader with 33, and Rebekah Hill and Sam Scott totaled 22 digs apiece.
Red Bank's leaders were Caitlyn Jenkins with 11 kills, Abby Graham with 18 assists, Autumn Babb with 27 digs and Marjorie Smith with three blocks.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.