If there has ever been an amateur sport with extreme momentum swings, volleyball has to be at the top of the list.
Such was the case at Signal Mountain on Thursday night when the Region 4 champion Lady Eagles hosted the Region 3 runner-up Red Bank.
The Lionettes ended up winning in five sets, but they were thisclose to elimination in the fifth set before they yanked victory from the jaws of defeat.
Red Bank won the first two sets by scores of 25-16 and 25-15 and looked like world-beaters in the process.
Everything was working to perfection for the Lionettes and it looked like it might be an easy step to Murfreesboro for next week's state tournament.
Signal Mountain played just the opposite in those first two sets, looking at times like they had never played together before and making fans wonder just how they advanced to this level in the post-season..
"Ole Mo" started shifting in the third and fourth sets. Looking like these two teams had traded roles, all of a sudden, the Lady Eagles were clicking and Red Bank was struggling. As a result, Signal Mountain claimed those two sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-17.
But, oh what a dandy that fifth set turned out to be.
Playing to 15 as the rules stipulate in a fifth set, this one was tied on 10 occasions.
A 2-0 Signal Mountain lead changed into a 6-4 Red Bank lead before the Lady Eagles regained the upper hand at 10-8. Red Bank regrouped for a 13-12 lead, but back-to-back kills by an inspired Taelor Kellum gave Signal Mountain the lead at 14-13.
Red Bank called its final timeout with the match and the season on the line. Who knows what coach Christel Brooks said to her team, but whatever it was worked.
Savannah Nelson recorded the last of her match-high 26 kills to knot the score at 14 before back-to-back kills from Shelby Hayes gave the Lionettes the victory, the final point skipping off a Lady Eagle fingernail before sailing out of bounds as the entire Red Bank bench erupted in celebration.
"It's disappointing to say the least," said Signal Mountain coach Jennifer Redmond after her team's season ended at 20-26.
"I hate to think that a match like this ended on a referee's call, but we needed to take care of business at the end and we didn't. We had them 14-13 in that last set and couldn't finish, but I'm so proud of the way we came back. Without a doubt, that's the best we've played all season.
"It could have gone either way. We knew we were the underdogs coming in, but I kept telling my girls to keep playing as hard as they could and that good things might happen. We can't take anything away from Red Bank as they have a great team.
"They beat us in three straight earlier in the year, but our focus was to stay composed at the end. The positive thing for us is that Lana Bednarczyk is our only senior," Redmond concluded.
Red Bank's Brooks was tremendously relieved when the match ended and she was able to finally take a deep breath.
"Signal Mountain fought us tooth and nail the entire match and we feel very fortunate to be leaving here tonight with a win," Brooks said after her team had improved to 38-9.
"We preach mental toughness and I felt like we were somehow able to keep it together at the end. Everything was on the line and I knew that by the way the tide had changed, it was anybody's match until the end. I had faith that my girls could do it, but we never had it in the bag.
"We were wanting to get the ball to Savannah at the end, but they had been focusing on blocking her. We have two big hitters on our team and Shelby was able to get the last two points," Brooks added.
Nelson topped everyone with 26 kills while Hayes was next with 23. Ansley Helton had 28 digs while Autumn Babb was also impressive with 26. Abby Graham finished the match with 60 assists.
For Signal Mountain, Kellum finished with 21 kills while Shelby O'Quinn had 19 digs and 13 kills. She also had five aces.
Carolynn Thielges finished with 44 assists.
RED BANK STATS:
Savannah Nelson -- 26 kills;
Ansley Helton -- 8 kills, 28 digs;
Shelby Hayes -- 23 kills, 16 digs;
Abby Graham -- 2 kills, 60 assists, 7 digs;
Autumn Babb -- 26 digs;
Allison Walker -- 6 kills;
Hannah Wilson -- 7 digs, 6 aces;
Caitlyn Jenkins -- 2 kills, 5 digs.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN STATS:
Lana Bednarczyk -- 17 digs;
Rachel Brown -- 3 kills, 1 block;
Taelor Kellum -- 10 digs, 21 kills;
Shelby O'Quinn -- 19 digs, 13 kills, 5 aces;
Azlee Lambert -- 3 digs, 2 blocks;
Amanda Thielges -- 6 digs;
Laura Holland -- 4 kills, 5 blocks;
Carolynn Thielges -- 44 assists, 9 kills;
Alaina Avery -- 2 digs;
Kira Carlton -- 3 digs.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)