Mandi Munn is looking forward to a weekend of deer hunting with her husband Randy on Carter Mountain and she'll be able to enjoy it with a smile on her face after her Red Bank Lionettes advanced to the state volleyball tournament for the sixth straight year with a 3-0 victory over Region 4-AA runner-up Notre Dame.
The match was held at Red Bank's Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium with former coaches Christel Brooks and Thurman both in attendance, but the Lionettes came out ready to play as they advanced to Murfreesboro with their biggest win of the year by scores of 25-13, 25-23 and 27-25.
"We've gone through our share of rough spots this season, but all of those tough matches before today prepared us for this emotional roller coaster tonight," said Munn after her team had improved to 22-24 with the win.
"These girls were hungry and ready to play, but the crowd was huge and they played a big role too. Notre Dame came back and gave us a good fight, but our serves were the key tonight as we kept them out of their offense.
"We don't have one stud player like some teams, but they all contribute and for us to pull this off again for the sixth straight year is huge. We just wanted to play hard and do the the little things right and that philosophy paid off," Munn nodded.
Notre Dame coach Ted Hackett could only shake his head as he watched his team get beat by a better team on this occasion. The Lady Irish complete their season at 15-22.
"I just told these girls to keep their head up. We fought back in the second and third sets, but there were a couple of breaks that just didn't go our way," the first-year coach said after consoling a group of heart-broken young ladies.
"We didn't execute in the first set and we didn't finish in the second and third sets when we had the opportunity. We had some jitters at the beginning, but we settled down and fought for every point. Red Bank has a very good team. I'm extremely proud of our effort, just disappointed with the outcome.
"I'm happy with the progress we've made this year and we have a great core of players coming back next year," he concluded.
Notre Dame got an ace and two more service points from Stephanie Bouchard as the Lady Irish created a 4-1 lead in the first set, but a long serve by Notre Dame made it 4-2 before Hannah Wilson took over.
She unleashed back-to-back aces to tie the score and proceeded to record nine more service points as that 4-1 deficit turned into a 13-4 lead for the Lionettes. Kayle Stone's kill snapped the streak for Notre Dame, but the Lady Irish were in too deep a hole as Red Bank maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the set.
Red Bank built another big lead in the second set at 12-5 before Notre Dame rallied to tie the score following a Red Bank hitting error and six straight service points from Khadejah Sivels.
The Lady Irish never led in that set, but an ace from Keri Klassen knotted the score at 22 before Red Bank scored three of the final four points.
Then for the third straight set, the Lionettes built a big lead only to watch as Notre Dame rallied again.
The difference was 17-9 when Mallory Hein went to the service line and scored 10 straight points as Notre Dame turned that deficit into a 19-17 lead following an ace by Hein.
A block from Tess Scobey and two aces by Ragen Dobson gave Notre Dame a 23-18 lead, but Abby Graham got the Lionettes back to within one with four straight service points before Jasmine Simpson ignited the Red Bank crowd with a kill to tie the score at 23-all.
The score was tied two more times before Red Bank scored the final two points, the match winner on a tip from Graham.
Graham was the leader for Red Bank with 12 digs, 10 assists, four kills and a pair of aces while Autumn Babb had 29 digs. Allison Walker and Dani Usher both had six kills while Simpson followed with five.
Bouchard, one of three Notre Dame seniors playing their final match, finished with 17 digs, five kills, four aces and three blocks to lead the Lady Irish.
Dobson had 18 assists while Danika Dorris had 15 digs and Randi Clement eight kills.
NOTRE DAME STATS:
Khadejah Sivels -- 3 aces, 7 digs;
Ragen Dobson -- 2 aces, 2 kills, 18 assists, 5 digs;
Keri Klassen -- 1 ace, 2 digs;
Randi Clement -- 8 kills, 1 block, 5 digs;
Tess Scobey -- 1 kill, 3 blocks, 1 assist, 1 dig;
Mallory Hein -- 2 aces, 3 kills, 1 block, 4 digs;
Danika Dorris -- 15 digs;
Kayle Stone -- 3 kills, 2 digs;
Stephanie Bouchard -- 4 aces, 5 kills, 3 blocks, 17 digs.
RED BANK STATS:
Abby Graham -- 4 kills, 2 aces, 12 digs, 10 assists;
Kiki Adkins -- 7 digs;
Autumn Babb -- 29 digs, 2 aces;
Caitlyn Jenkins -- 4 kills;
Allison Walker -- 6 kills;
Rachel Thornbury -- 2 digs, 2 aces, 4 assists;
Hannah Wilson -- 11 digs, 5 aces;
Dani Usher -- 6 kills, 2 blocks;
Jasmine Simpson -- 5 kills, 2 blocks;
Janie Smith -- 1 ace.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)