ATHENS — Walker Valley may have had "a little help from above" to upset a Bradley Central team that had defeated them in three previous meetings this season, to advance to tonight's District 5-AAA Volleyball Championship Match.
ATHENS — Walker Valley may have had “a little help from above” to upset a Bradley Central team that had defeated them in three previous meetings this season, to advance to tonight’s District 5-AAA Volleyball Championship Match.
“That game is not on me or any one person,” proclaimed Lady Mustang head coach Aubrey Reagan. “Yesterday (Sunday), we (the team) went to church at Candies Creek (Baptist) and they gave us a message on confidence. Literally, the Lord ordered those steps for us from Psalms 27. We believe that.
“We (the team) go together to different churches each week. A senior (player) picks where we go,” Coach Reagan explained. “My sister Sophie (Frederick) is a senior and attends there. She really wanted us to go there this week.
“We know the Gibsons (Stan and Heather) well, he’s the pastor there. When we got there and ‘Confidence’ popped up on the video board, I looked at Sophie and kind of gave her a nudge. It (the message) was just what we needed.”
Whether it was ordained or not, the No. 3-seeded Lady Mustangs came out of the gate strong with a 25-15 opening set win before rallying from a late six-point deficit to get past the second-seeded Bearettes 29-27 in an extended second game.
Walker Valley hit a full gallop down the back stretch to pull away for a 25-19 final set for the sweep.
Finishing the season with a 25-12 mark, Bradley had beaten the Herd 3-1 in each of their two regular season district meetings, plus added a 2-0 sweep in a tournament match.
“We’ve had a great season, but this isn’t how we wanted it to end,” bemoaned veteran Bearette coach Christie McElhaney.
“We didn’t have any sense of urgency. We didn’t have good communication. We had worked on some things in practice, as far as a game plan, and we didn’t execute it.
“You’ve got to bring your ‘A game’ every time. We were flat for some reason,” she concluded. “At the end of the day, you have to come prepared to fight to the end and we didn’t.”
Along with earning a berth in next week’s Region 3-AAA Tournament, the Lady Mustangs (15-12) will look to do to three-time defending district champ Cleveland (30-11), what it did to the other county squad in tonight’s title match at McMinn County High School. Match time is 6 p.m.
“That fine right there would good tomorrow night (tonight) too,” declared Coach Reagan “We’ll be excited and be fired up.”
After taking a set from the Lady Raiders in their August meeting, when they met 20 days ago the Fillies pushed the reigning champs to a fifth set tie-breaker before succumbing 15-10.
“I’m not surprised we’re facing Walker Valley (for the title),” proclaimed first-year Lady Raider coach Amy McGowan before her team swept No. 4-seeded Ooltewah for the fourth time this season.
“We fully expect to go to five games with them. Walker Valley is a very scrappy team, that makes you earn it. They don’t let the ball hit the floor very much, so you have to be ready to battle for every point,” the District 5-AAA Coach of the Year remarked.
Tonight’s winner will get to host a Region opening match next Monday, while the loser will have to travel to the District 6-AAA champions for a shot at the TSSAA Sectionals.
After trailing 7-5 in the opening set last night, Walker Valley pulled away with a 12-2 run and then capped the stunning opener with a 7-3 streak for the 10-point victory.
Although the second set had a similar 7-5 start, this one stayed tight until the score was 15-all.
Bradley then went on a 7-1 spurt, looking like it was going to pull away to even the match. However, despite being down 22-16, the pesky Fillies fought back with an 8-1 run to earn set point.
The Bearettes bounced back to gain set point for themselves, but the Herd fought it off, sending the set to extra play.
Walker Valley fought off two more set points before earning the game’s final three points on a pair of Bradley miscues and a power kill by Jia Weatherby for the win.
Feeding off that dramatic action, the Lady Mustangs trailed just once (7-6) in the final set to pull off the upset.
“I’m proud of them. I like these kids a lot. I’ve had a few of them since middle school and others have come in,” praised Coach Reagan. “Winning means we get a few more days together. We’re excited.
“Melody (McRee) and Jia (Weathersby) both had eight kills. Our outside hitters did what they needed to do. Sophie (Frederick) had 22 assists. Laney (Harris) had 20 (digs) and 18 (service receptions).
“It wasn’t one person. We’ve got 14 that deserve to be there and they get the credit. It was a real team effort,” she added.
“Making the region was on of the girls’ goals this season. I asked them to stick with me and they have gotten better. I asked them to trust the process. To trust we were going to get better and we did.
“That inexperience we had at the beginning has gone away. Now we’re experienced. Everybody stepped up to put us into position to play for the championship,” Reagan concluded.
Frederick, who along with McRee and Harris were named to the All-District Team for the regular season, added 13 digs and four dinks for points, plus a pair of aces.
Lily Wilson collected a trio of aces, 13 digs, 11 service receptions, five kills and an assist. Maggie Harness also downed five spikes and had three digs for the victors.
Bradley had four players make the All-District squad — Ashlan Crittenden (seven kills, seven digs, six assists), Kelsey Carman (10 digs, eight kills, a block), Kierstyn Viola (three kills, two digs) and Anna Muhonen (four kills, two blocks).
The Bearettes also got 16 assists and nine digs from Riley Sermons; four kills and eight digs from Mary B. Smith; 10 digs and three aces from Abigail Leonard and a dozen digs from libero Taylor White. Karsee Weber helped out with a half-dozen assists and four digs.
Cleveland 3, Ooltewah 0
Despite having some lapses of lackluster play that allowed the Lady Owls to make it look closer than it really was, the Lady Raiders were able to make it a perfect 13-0 in sets against Ooltewah this season.
“I don’t know, we got complacent,” commented Coach McGowan. “It’s hard to get up to play a team you’ve beaten pretty badly before. It’s hard to keep the momentum in matches like that sometimes.
“We had several service errors tonight, which isn’t typical for us,” she added of the Lady Raiders’ 13 serve miscues, which was countered by 16 aces.
Cleveland had little trouble in the opening set, racing out to a 16-5 advantage and capping with eight of the final 10 points of the 25-15 tally.
After jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the second set, and holding that same edge at 13-8, the Lady Raiders allowed Ooltewah to fight back and take its first lead of the night (20-18) with a 5-0 run.
After a timeout, Cleveland rallied behind three straight aces from District MVP Joy Douglass to claim seven of the final eight points for a 25-21 win.
The teams traded the first half-dozen points of the third set before the Lady Raiders took off on a 10-2 streak to pull away.
Once again, the Lady Owls, who had defeated fifth-seed and host McMinn County in straight sets to advance to the semifinal, battled back to pull within 18-16 before Douglass worked her magic again with another trio of aces in another 7-1 run, to seal the deal.
All-District performer Lily Oliver capped the sweep with her fifth kill of the evening, while Douglass downed three slams and had seven digs.
Both Cleveland setters made the All-District squad with senior Bri Daniel handing out 10 assists, drilling five aces and a couple of dinks last night, while junior Katie McGinnis dished out five helps, had five digs and a pair of aces herself.
Senior libero Elliot Brock, another All-District player, had 13 digs and a couple of aces, while freshman Addison Hurst had a pair of kills, and is also an All-District honoree.
All-District 5-AAA Team Coach of the Year; Amy McGowan, Cleveland Most Valuable Player; Joy Douglass, Cleveland Team members; Addison Hurst, Lily Oliver, Briannan Daniel, Katie McGinnis, Elliot Brock (Cleveland); Kelsey Carman, Ashlan Crittenden, Kierstyn Viola, Anna Muhonen (Bradley Central); Sophie Frederick, Laney Harris, Melody McRee (Walker Valley; Daisja Knox, Kaylee Jarnagin (Ooltewah); Rachel Leamon (McMinn County).
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