After Tuesday evening's District 6-AA volleyball showdown, both Red Bank coach Christel Brooks and East Hamilton's Kristy Lenoir described the five-set match as a roller-coaster ride.
When the ride was over, the Lady Lions emerged with the top spot in the district race.
Red Bank overcame a loss in the first set against visiting East Hamilton to earn a 3-2 match victory in the rematch of last year's district and region championship games.
"This was big," said Brooks. "It doesn't clinch the district, but it puts us in the driver's seat for the top seed. East Hamilton is a great team. I think we're two of the best teams in the state in our classification, and it was a battle. It went right down to the end. It doesn't get much closer than 15-13."
Both the Lady Lions and East Hamilton reached the Class AA state tournament last year after Red Bank earned the District 6-AA title and the Lady Hurricanes claimed the Region 3-AA championship. In Tuesday's rematch, East Hamilton took a 1-0 advantage after a 25-22 win in game one, but the Lady Lions responded by taking game two 25-17.
Red Bank then pulled away for a 25-18 victory in the third set, but the Lady Hurricanes rebounded with a dominant performance in the fourth. After her team took a 4-3 lead, sophomore Kylie Scruggs served East Hamilton to six straight points, and another 8-0 run gave the Lady Hurricanes a 21-6 advantage. Red Bank rallied to within 24-12, but a side out ended the game and tied the match score at 2-2.
The Lady Lions took the lead at 4-3 in the fifth set, and held the advantage until East Hamilton battled back to reclaim it at 13-12. A kill from Ansley Helton tied the score for Red Bank, and an ace from Hannah Wilson gave her team match point. A side out then secured the 15-13 victory and a 5-0 district record for the Lady Lions.
"It was a roller coaster with all the momentum swings," Brooks said. "They took it to us in game four, but I told them they had to forget about that and go out and get 15 points to win game five. That was just all-out hustle, and when you do that, good things are going to happen."
Savannah Nelson led Red Bank with 19 kills and four blocks, and Shelby Hayes totaled 15 kills, 20 digs, three aces and two blocks. Helton finished with seven kills and 22 digs, and Abby Graham made 35 assists and 23 digs. Wilson totaled 10 digs and three aces, while Autumn Babb recorded 27 digs and Allison Walker contributed four kills. The win improves Red Bank's record to 21-5 overall, while East Hamilton dropped to 23-10 and 4-1 in district play.
"It's always good to play in big matches like this if you're planning on going deep into the postseason," Lenoir said. "But you have to be consistent. You can't beat good teams when you're on a roller coaster. We did a lot of good things tonight, but then we also had some spurts of poor passing."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org