One of Cleveland's volleyball goals this season was to get "Back to the 'Boro."The Lady Raiders will be doing just that, but unfortunately their trip to Murfreesboro will be a little sooner than …
One of Cleveland's volleyball goals this season was to get "Back to the 'Boro."
The Lady Raiders will be doing just that, but unfortunately their trip to Murfreesboro will be a little sooner than planned.
"We're going back to the 'Boro about a week before we wanted to," commented veteran coach Trish Flowers after Cleveland dropped a hard fought five-setter in the Region 3-AAA championship match Tuesday evening in Cookeville.
"Tonight was two very evenly matched teams. It came down to timing and rhythm. There were times when weren't in a good rhythm. Most of the time we were, but not all of the time."
After 15 lead changes and 17 ties in the first four sets, the host Lady Cavaliers led from pillar-to-post in the tiebreaker to claim their first region crown since 2014 and thwart Cleveland's hopes of a region "three-peat."
Cookeville won the first and fourth sets by scores of 25-22 and 25-23 before posting the first half dozen points of the tiebreaker and wrapping the title up with a 15-10 tally.
Cleveland claimed the second and third sets by margins of 25-21 and 25-18 to actually outscore the hosts by a point (105-104) on the evening.
"It was a good fight. We just weren't consistent," assessed Coach Flowers. "The pressure was high and that affects you sometimes.
"I'm still proud of them. To fight like they did and go to five (sets) in a region championship match that we really could have won."
Looking for a third straight trip to the TSSAA State Tournament, the Lady Raiders (25-11) will head to Murfreesboro Thursday evening for a Class AAA Sectional showdown with 11-time state tournament qualifier Siegel.
The Stars (22-11) breezed to the Region 4 crown with four straight postseason sweeps, including 3-0 wins over Coffee County and Stewarts Creek Tuesday evening.
The Cleveland and Siegel programs are very familiar with each other.
"We go to Siegel every summer and stay in their school during their camp," Coach Flowers related. "We've become close with them over the past few years. We pull for each other. We were hoping we'd see each other at the 'Boro, but not like this.
"This is Coach Shawn Robinson's last year at Siegel and he has a very special relationship with his seniors, so they are very motivated."
The last time the two teams meet, the Stars swept in the first-ever state tournament match in Lady Raider history in 2016.
"We like each other, but don't think that will matter Thursday night. Both teams are trying to go back to the state and only one of us can," Flowers remarked.
Cookeville (28-12) will entertain Region 4 runner-up Stewarts Creek (22-15) Thursday in a substate match as well.
"At this point all of the teams are very good," the Cleveland coach assessed. "It's going to be who comes out strong and takes it from another quality team.
"We played Stewart's Creek without (District 5-AAA Player of the Year) Anna Renshaw and lost one set 21-25, another 19-25 and was up the third set when they called time (in a weekend tournament)."
Cookeville started Tuesday's title tilt strong, putting the first three points on the board as it jumped out to an early 9-3 advantage.
Cleveland snapped the streak on a kill by sophomore Joy Douglass to spark a strong five-point streak that included back-to-back blocks by junior Lily Oliver and Douglass, a dink by Renshaw, who did the serving during the stretch, and a downed tip by junior Lily Oliver to close the gap to a single point.
The Lady Raiders took the lead (12-11) for the first time a few moments later on back-to-back kills by Douglass.
The hosts responded with a 6-2 spurt to regain control before the teams evenly split the final 16 points.
The second set saw eight ties and five lead changes as Cleveland put the first three points on the scoreboard, before the Lady Cavaliers went on a 9-1 hot streak.
Once again the District 5 champion Lady Raiders turned the tables with an 8-2 run to vault ahead before the score was knotted five times in the next 11 points.
Three straight points appeared to set Cookeville on the path to a second straight victory, but Flowers called a timeout to rally her marauders.
Renshaw took the serve back with a block and then stepped behind the line for a service winner.
After the hosts got got a kill by Region MVP Blake Cherry, Cleveland regained control as Bri Daniel withstood a pair of Cookeville timeouts to serve up five straight winners to even the match at a set apiece.
Riding the momentum, the visitors once again started the third set strong, downing the first four points on a kill and a tip by Renshaw, a block by Oliver and a kill by senior Nicole Glaser.
Once again Cookeville rallied with an 8-1 run before the Lady Raiders answered with three in a row to even the score.
After three more ties, Cleveland broke out on four straight service winners by Douglass to spark a 15-7 run down the stretch to take a 2-1 set advantage.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Cavaliers took command in the fourth set, plundering to a 22-13 lead.
Not ready to concede, the Lady Raiders rallied with a 10-2 run and fought off four set points to close the gap to 24-23 before Cookeville's Carly Cantrell slammed home a spike to even the match at two sets apiece.
"For us to get down like we did in the fourth set and then rally was tremendous, but we weren't quite able to come all the way back," praised Coach Flowers.
With the boost of staving off the visitor's attack, the Lady Cavaliers rode the wave to put up the first half dozen points of the tiebreaker.
Cleveland once again fought back with four straight points that included kills by Renshaw and Oliver, plus a "dunk" by Glaser.
A 4-1 spurt by the hosts squashed the rally and gave the set its final margin of victory as the teams traded the final 10 points.
"Cookeville had some really strong outside hitters and we did a good job (13 blocks) against them, but in the end they were more agressive at the net than we were," assessed Flowers.
"Our weakness was we started playing it safe and got into a tipping battle there for a while rather than someone stepping up and really blasting it home."
"I felt like we did our homework. We knew what we had to do to beat them but we just didn't quite pull it off. We knew it could go either way tonight."
Renshaw, Douglass and senior libero Lydia Martin earned All-Region Tournament honors for the Lady Raiders.
Renshaw finished with 26 digs, 25 assists, 22 service points, 14 kills and a pair of blocks for a 98 IPE.
Douglass returned 34 serves, dug out 24 shots, drilled 14 slams, served up 13 winners and had a pair of blocks.
Martin put 22 winners in play from behind the line, had 28 service returns and 25 digs for a 100 IPE.
Also posting a perfect (100) IPE, Daniel garnered a team-high 23 service winners, dug out 10 enemy shots and dished 14 helps.
Oliver helped out with nine kills, a team-high 4.5 blocks (she also had five stuffs in Monday's semifinals) and a trio of digs, while Glaser slammed home 11 shots and blocked a pair.
Elliot Brock posted a dozen winning serves, returned 14 and had eight digs, while Cyndey Brock blocked a couple of shots.
Senior Madeline Dasher helped out with three kills and a trio of digs for a 92 IPE for the Lady Raiders.
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