It was Senior Night at Soddy-Daisy on Tuesday night.
That meant it was Haley Reynolds’ special night, since she is the only senior on the Lady Trojans’ volleyball team.
Reynolds was honored before the match and then helped Soddy-Daisy rally to defeat the visiting Cleveland Lady Blue Raiders, 3-1, in a District 5-AAA match.
“Winning tonight was probably the best gift my team could give me,” said Reynolds, who briefly walked away from the sport her freshman season. “It’s a great feeling.”
Cleveland (14-19, 4-7) won the first set, 26-24, and gained its first lead at 20-19.
Soddy-Daisy (38-16, 7-4), battling East Hamilton for the second seed in next week’s district tournament at Ooltewah, then won the final three sets 25-23, 25-21 and 26-24 over the battling Lady Raiders.
“That’s been the story of our season,” said Cleveland coach Trish Flowers, wife of Tyner baseball coach Rob Flowers. “We can’t finish. Last week we went to five (sets) against East Hamilton and Bradley Central and couldn’t win.
“As coaches, we’re giving them a game plan and doing everything we can to prepare them for these games. As soon as adversity strikes, we start playing the blame game. It’s time for them to step up and play.”
Even after the first set, the Lady Raiders pretty much stayed within striking distance over the final three sets, but couldn’t get over the hump because the Lady Trojans were battling as well.
“We got off to a slow start in that fourth set, but we finally handled being behind and executed down the stretch,” Lady Trojans coach Lorri Johnson said. “We were down 23-16. Crazy isn’t it. That’s volleyball and the clock doesn’t run out and you’ve got a chance as long as you keep the ball in play. We got some smart serves, smart attacks and a few lucky breaks.
“Once we tied it up we had them.”
The come-from-behind victory sets up the season’s final regular-season matches on Thursday.
Ooltewah wound up its district schedule on Tuesday by beating Bradley Central, 3-1, to push its overall record to 33-8 and finish 12-0 in league play. The Lady Owls have the tournament’s No. 1 seed wrapped up.
East Hamilton beat Walker Valley, 3-2, on Tuesday and improved to 22-16 overall and joins Soddy-Daisy at 7-4 in the district. The Bearettes fell to 21-19 and 6-6.
The Lady Hurricanes host Bradley Central on Thursday. If East Hamilton wins and Soddy-Daisy wins at Walker Valley, the two teams will be tied for second place. The Lady Trojans, who have won four straight matches and 10 of the past 11, own the tie-breaker.
“We beat them in three and they beat us in four,” Johnson said. “That will give us the second seed.”
Reynolds wasn’t worried about the seedings, just concerned with winning her final home match.
Even after the first-set loss, Reynolds kept a business-like attitude and kept pounding the Lady Raiders from around the net. She recorded seven kills and seven “stuffs,” or, as Johnson calls them, “blocks that score.”
In the third set, Cleveland tied the score at 9-all on a block by senior middle hitter Aneisha Barber. The Lady Trojans ran off 11 straight points – Reynolds had four kills in the spree – and opened a 20-9 advantage. Reynolds added a kill to put the score at 21-12, giving her six of Soddy-Daisy’s 13 points in the key stretch.
“We had some kills in there, good digs and Cleveland’s big girl (Amber Morman) was on the bench at that point,” Johnson said. “They eventually broke out serve, but we were pretty much out of reach.”
Down 24-18, Cleveland scored three straight points, but the Lady Trojans got the winning point when the Lady Raiders netted a return shot.
In the fourth set, Cleveland got off to a 7-1 start and kept up the pressure. The lead was 18-10, then 21-13 and 23-16 when Soddy-Daisy’s Abby Walker sent a kill long.
The Lady Trojans scored the next six points to pull within 23-22. Cleveland’s Marissa Langford scored on a sizzling kill, but Barber’s shot sailed out and the Lady Raiders’ lead was 24-22.
Soddy-Daisy’s Grayson Brown – the team’s “unsung hero,” her coach said – scored on a serve and Reynolds had back-to-back kills to secure the set and match.
“Coming back from 23-16 teaches us that we can do that and overcome any obstacle we might face,” Reynolds said. “(Cleveland) gave us a scare, but I have confidence in my team and I knew we could pull it out.
“A win like this definitely builds confidence and we’re ready to go up to Walker Valley and take (a match) from them in their own gym.”
Reynolds didn’t always have confidence that she wanted to play volleyball in high school.
She called Johnson shortly after tryouts and said she probably wouldn’t play. Johnson didn’t slam the door on the possibility though.
“I said, ‘OK, Haley,’ Johnson said. “Then I told her if she changed her mind between then and July when we started workouts to let me know. We were two days into workouts and she hadn’t shown up.
“I got a text and she said she was really missing volleyball and asked if I’d let her come back she would run laps or whatever I asked her to do. I said, ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’ ”
Reynolds ran her laps.
“And she’s still out there,” Johnson said, smiling as the chatter and laughter could be heard from a postgame Senior Night celebration.
To pull even with Cleveland in the hard-fought match, both teams battled tooth-and-nail in the second set.
Nursing a 19-18 lead the Lady Trojans scored three straight points to open a 22-18 spread. Soddy-Daisy led 24-21 and two straight points, but Chloe Mitchell’s kill ended the set.
Cleveland went ahead 20-19 on a Soddy-Daisy error in the first set and a kill by the Lady Trojans’ Karigan Fulghum tied it at 22-all. Soddy-Daisy went up 24-23 and Barber’s service point gave the set to Cleveland.
“I’d like to give a shout-out to Amber Morman and Morgan Moffett, two freshmen who are embracing an opportunity to play that has been given to them,” Flowers said. “And Marissa Langford is a great player.”
Haley Reynolds – 7 kills, 7 stuffs
Hannah Robertson – 32 digs
Chloe Mitchell – 30 assists
Lauren Smith – 9 kills, 28 digs, 3 aces, 1 assist
Karigan Fulghum – 6 kills, 16 digs, 2 aces, 3 assists, 1 block
Abby Walker – 13 kills, 23 digs, 1 ace.
Alex Volker – 3 kills, 3 stuffs, 3 digs
Grayson Brown – 4 aces, 4 digs
Aces – Lauren Lee 5, K.K. Clements 2, Eva Wilhelm 1
Kills – Marissa Langford 26, Amber Morman 6, Allison Botts 4, Aneisha Barber 4, Kellee Geren 3, Morgan Moffett 3
Assists – Kellee Geren 32, Morgan Moffett 4, Allison Botts 2, Lee 1, Wilhelm 1
Blocks – Langford 2, Geren 1.5, Moffett 1.5, Barber 1
Digs – Wilhelm 49, Geren 21, Kayla Lee 19, Clements 15, L. Lee 14, Langford 13, Botts 6, Barber 5, Morman 2, Moffett 1, Addie Strode 1, Lauren Borst 1
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)