The GPS Bruisers played their final home volleyball match Saturday afternoon and even though they won in three straight sets to advance in the D-II state playoffs, they weren't inspired, they didn't seem happy to be there and they didn't appear to be overly excited when it ended.
The Pope John Paul II Lady Knights were the opponent who came to town with a less-than-impressive 17-28 record. GPS entered the match at 29-11.
The Lady Knights played much better than their record would indicate while GPS played much worse.
But as they always say, style points don't count as long as you win and that was certainly the case for GPS as scores were 27-25, 25-23 and 25-22.
"Obviously, we didn't play our best volleyball today and that's frustrating," said GPS coach Paul Brock after a post-match meeting with GPS parents.
"Effort like that will not get us to Murfreesboro. We had beaten Pope John Paul fairly easily in September, but they played their hearts out today and made us look bad in the process.
"At this point, we just need to find our heart. We have to want it and to fight as a team to win. These girls have been successful in the past and they seem to take that for granted. They don't appreciate winning and that's a shame.
"I thought we'd be out for blood after the heartbreaking loss at Baylor on Wednesday, but we just sort of went through the motions. I can promise that we'll work hard and do our best to get ready for next Saturday. If things don't get better, it could be a long trip to Memphis," he concluded, noting that the Bruisers will face St. Agnes in a quarterfinal match next Saturday.
The Lady Knights played toe-to-toe with the Bruisers, but when push came to shove in close situations, the visitors from Hendersonville came up a little bit short.
The first set was tied 18 times. A kill by Sadie Lett gave GPS the lead at 25-24, but the next serve sailed out of bounds to tie the score for the final time. That's when Destinee Lansden took over and had back-to-back kills for the winning margin.
The second set was tied on nine occasions, but again, when the chips were on the line, GPS came through. While Lansden was the difference in the first set, a kill by Lett gave the Bruisers a 24-23 lead before an ace by Olivia Berger gave GPS a 2-0 lead.
The Bruisers played with a little more inspiration in the third set as they had leads of 13-8 and 21-14. The Lady Knights weren't ready to toss in the white towel and made it interesting with five straight points before Brock called a timeout at 21-19.
Lett then had three of her match-high 23 kills as GPS was finally able to put Pope John Paul away.
Lady Knight coach Kim Shaver was just happy that her girls were much more competitive than in that first match in September.
"We didn't play them very close the first time, but we're a different team today. Even though we didn't win a single set, we were a lot closer and I'm really proud of how far we've come," Shaver expressed afterward.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed that we didn't win, but GPS has an outstanding team. In a match like this, it comes down to the small things. We didn't close and we also made a lot of unforced errors. We were the eighth seed as we didn't win a region match, but I don't feel like we're that team.
"We've just got to keep working harder as we continue to improve," Shaver concluded with a smile.
Mia Buda had nine kills to lead the Lady Knights up front while Chelsey Smith, Hannah Lees and Buda all had 10 digs. Jessica Herrera finished with 18 assists.
Lett had another triple-double for the Bruisers with 23 kills, 18 assists and 16 digs.
Reagan Williams had 24 assists while Kelby Crownover finished with 17 digs.
POPE JOHN PAUL II STATS:
Jessica Herrera -- 18 assists;
Mia Buda -- 10 digs, 9 kills;
Chelsey Smith -- 10 digs, 6 kills, 2 blocks;
Alex Price -- 8 digs;
Erin Riss -- 4 kills;
Hannah Lees -- 10 digs, 6 kills.
Destinee Lansden -- 14 kills, 3 blocks;
Kelby Crownover -- 17 digs;
Kristen Warren -- 5 digs;
Olivia Berger -- 5 kills, 14 digs, 2 blocks;
Reagan Williams -- 1 ace, 3 kills, 24 assists;
Sadie Lett -- 23 kills, 18 assists, 16 digs;
Sara Griffith -- 1 ace, 3 kills, 3 digs;
Sarah Hicks -- 2 blocks;
Tianna Mills -- 4 kills, 4 blocks;
Jenna Siimpson -- 3 aces, 3 digs.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)