The gymnasiums at MTSU's Murphy Center and Blackman and Siegel High Schools are all nice and quiet today, but they will be bustling with activity on Wednesday when 32 Tennessee teams in five classifications begin their quest for a state volleyball title.
Champions will be crowned in Division I Class A, AA and AAA in addition to Division II Class A and AA on Friday at Murphy Center.
The Chattanooga area will be represented by five teams, including Boyd-Buchanan in Class A, Red Bank and East Hamilton in AA, Ooltewah in AAA and Baylor in D-II-AA.
Ooltewah and Baylor will both be playing opponents they've beaten this year while Red Bank has an opportunity to face a team that handed them both of their losses last year when the Lionettes finished third.
Boyd-Buchanan and East Hamilton are both playing teams for the first time and neither knows very much at all about those new faces.
Baylor finished as the runner-up to two-time champion Ensworth last year, so the Lady Red Raiders are really gunning to improve on that.
Baylor is now 34-12 and will face Battle Ground Academy (32-11) in Wednesday's first match at Murphy Center. The Lady Raiders defeated BGA 3-0 about a month ago, but we all know how previous results and records don't mean much when you get to this point in the season.
"We're leaving after practice today, but we're looking forward to a fun week," said Baylor coach Sarah Lail Tuesday morning.
"We beat them in three straight the first weekend that Rachel Travis was back from her injury. It was a very emotional and exciting match for us and we hope to bring that same intensity on Wednesday. We aren't taking anyone for granted, but we've been there before and seem to have a lot of confidence. Most of our losses have come against teams who will be there.
"You know how volleyball is a big momentum sport, but we want to improve on what we did last year. It will take a lot of hard work and each member of our team will have to do their part. We also know that it will take a little luck, but we're excited about our opportunity as it should be a great tournament," Lail added.
The Red Bank Lionettes are making their fifth straight trip to Murfreesboro. Red Bank won a state title in 2009 before finishing as runner-up in 2010 and third place last year. The Lionettes are 38-9, but will be facing a 41-3 Goodpasture team, a talented squad that handed them their first and last loss in last year's tournament.
"They are the ones who put us out last year," recalled Red Bank coach Christel Brooks.
"They have a 6-4 girl in the middle who's already committed to Auburn. They returned a lot of players from last year, but so did we. We're excited, but we'll be fresh in the first match, so we'll play hard and see what happens.
"There's no time for butterflies. Since we don't play until Wednesday afternoon, we won't leave until that morning, but the school will have a nice sendoff like in years past with the band and cheerleaders.
"We had a great practice today and all seem to have a good feeling about the week ahead. It didn't come easy as we had to really battle to get past Signal Mountain, but I hope that helps us. We just hope to play our best and let the results take care of themselves," Brooks added.
The Ooltewah Lady Owls haven't been to the state tournament since 2009, but they've made nine trips in coach Elaine Peigen's tenure there and played in the championship match twice. They are still looking for that first state title.
"We played them three weeks ago in the Blackman tournament, so I hope we're ready because we know they're good," said Peigen on Monday afternoon.
"We just have to play our game and make sure we play good defense. We can't afford to play scared and I hope we aren't nervous. It's up to them at this point to see just how far they want to go. We got put out by Siegel in last year's sectional round, so hopefully, we'll have better luck this time around," Peigen said, her team now 35-18.
Region 3-AA champ East Hamilton is making its second straight trip and will face Dyersburg in Wednesday's first match at noon Chattanooga time. The Lady Hurricanes are 33-18 now and seem to be peaking at the right time.
"We're ready to go as we're excited," said East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir Tuesday morning.
"We had a cookout Monday afternoon, so we got to have some fun doing something other than playing volleyball. All of the ones who went last year are ready to go back while the new ones don't have any idea what they're getting into.
"We don't know a whole lot about Dyersburg. We just hope to take care of the ball on our side of the court. We did what we had to do to get there, but I'm just thankful to have some experienced players who've been there before.
"We just want to lay it on the line and have no regrets about our effort when we leave. Playing consistent and having good serve reception are two keys, but we just want to look forward and see what happens," Lenoir added.
The Lady Buccaneers from Boyd-Buchanan will be the first local team in action as they face Knoxville Grace on Wednesday morning at Murphy Center with the first serve planned for 10 a.m. The Lady Bucs are on a roll with District, Regional and Sectional titles under their belt with a record of 30-13.
"We don't know much about them, but from what I can tell, they aren't real tall, but they hit it hard from the outside," said second-year coach Ashley Rose on Monday afternoon.
"We'll practice Tuesday morning and head to Murfreesboro after that, but we're hoping to do well. We'll stick around and watch the match after ours because we'll probably play the winner or the loser, depending on how we do.
"We just need to stick together and stay focused. We're there to play volleyball, but more than half of my team has been there before, so I hope that's a plus. We know that any of these teams can win at any time, so we hope to play our best," Rose added.
There's a lot of volleyball coming in these next three days. Five teams will head home with smiles on their faces and a championship trophy to brag about. The rest of the teams will probably look back and ask "What if?" several times.
Friday's championship matches will begin at 11 a.m. (EST) with the D-II Class A final and be followed by the D-II Class AA about 1. The Class A, AA and AAA matches will all follow at two hour increments.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)