“That first game was ugly, but afterward we reorganized some things and put people where they were executing best,” related Bearette head coach Christie McElhaney after the 14-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-23 victory.
“We had to score points and we did in the second and third sets. We got a little complacent in the fourth, but were able to hold them off,” she added.
“We played well the first and fourth games, but we couldn’t get the crucial points when we really needed them at the end,” commented Lady Mustang coach Judy Pruett. “Our girls played hard. We could possibly see them (Bradley) again this weekend (at the Tennessee Tandem Tournament) or in the district tournament.”
After both teams, as well as Cleveland High, travel to Ooltewah for the weekend event, the Lady Raiders will take on the Bearettes Tuesday, while Walker Valley will travel to Chattanooga for a tri-match with East Ridge and GPS on Wednesday. Thursday, the Lady Mustangs will pay a visit to Cleveland, while Bradley heads to McMinn County.
Bradley (15-9, 3-4 District 5-AAA) took the early lead Thursday using back-to-back aces from all-stater Brooke Copeland to go up 4-1.
After another unreturnable serve from Chanler Gray to make it 6-3, Walker Valley (11-11, 3-4) took control of the opener with a 9-0 run as Ashlyn Flock served up eight straight winners, including a couple of aces of her own.
The visitors controlled the remainder of the first set, including a 6-1 run to push the lead to double digits before the teams traded the final eight points with the game-winner coming on Bradley’s sixth unsuccessful serve and 11th unforced error of the game.
After regrouping, the Bearettes came out with a purpose in the second set, putting the first half dozen points on the scoreboard with three straight downed blocks (one from Monica Johnson and the other two by Copeland) and a Julia Gaither ace getting them off on the right foot.
After trailing 9-2, Walker Valley fought back with a 5-2 streak to cut the deficit to four, but the hosts responded with a 10-2 streak to push the lead to its highest mark at 12.
The Lady Mustangs made one last charge with seven straight points, including a half dozen service winners by Sara Wilson, but a block by Copeland stemmed the tide and 6-foot-3 teammate Rebecca Reuter closed the set with a dink and a kill.
The third set went much like the second, with back-to-back kills by Copeland sparking a 6-2 run to open the game and 5-1 runs in the middle and at the end gave Bradley an 11-point win.
Down 2-1, Coach Pruett’s “fillies” stormed out of the gate to score four of the first five points in the fourth set, but unlike the first three blowout sets, a seesaw battle ensued.
The Bearettes made the first of seven lead changes with a 6-1 run, including a pair of kills and an ace by Copeland. Walker Valley fought back with a 5-1 streak of its own, with Alexan Crittenden downing a pair of spikes.
Reuter sparked a 6-1 run the other way with a trio of kills to give the Bearettes their largest lead of the set at 14-11. Determined, the visitors rallied to even the score at 16-all and inched ahead at 19-17 on a kill by Rachel Lawhorn.
The teams were knotted at 19-all, 20-all, 21-all and 22-all. Copeland was able to get a point off a tip that walked along the top of the net for a few seconds, but Abbi Mason answered with a kill shot to even things at 23-23.
Copeland, who missed the first 22 matches of the season after elbow surgery, announced she was back with dominate, with back-to-back kills to finish off the match.
The 6-foot-2 senior spiker finished with 13 kills, five aces, four blocks and four digs as she never left the court in just her second match back. Reuter, her “Twin Tower” partner, added 14 kills, four digs and a trio of blocks to the victory.
Junior setter McKenna Stinnett dished out 16 assists, dug out a half dozen shots and had an ace, while freshman setter Halle Hughes helped out with 11 assists, four digs and ace.
Junior Lisa Duvall collected 16 digs, five kills, 1 1/2 blocks and an ace, with sophomores Breelee Arms and Julia Gaither digging out 15 shots apiece for the victors. Junior Rachael Garrett had a dozen digs, while Johnson finished with 3 1/2 blocks.
For the Lady Mustangs, Madison Pruett led the way with 14 digs, 13 kills and nine receptions. Campbell dished off 14 assists and Flock had a dozen helps, seven digs, four aces and three kills.
Libero Alex Rominger garnered 13 digs, a half dozen receptions and a pair of aces. Gracie Pierce had nine digs and six receptions, while Wilson had eight digs. Crittenden finished with seven kills, with Mikayla Lumpkin adding four kills and a trio of blocks.
Katelin Scoggins posted six digs and four receptions, with Lawhorn collecting four kills, three blocks, two digs and an ace.
Bradley also won the freshman match, 25-15, 25-19, but Walker Valley claimed the junior varsity play 25-15, 8-25, 15-8.