Red Bank and Central will battle for the District 6-AA tournament championship at Red Bank's Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium on Thursday and both will advance to next week's Region 3-AA tournament regardless of what happens on Thursday.
Top-seeded Red Bank had a first-round bye before disposing of East Ridge by scores of 25-9, 25-19 and 25-18. The Lady Pioneers had advanced with a 3-0 victory over Brainerd in Tuesday's first round.
While the Lionettes didn't have much problem advancing, such was not the case in the other semifinal where Central avenged a 3-2 regular-season loss to Hixson with a 3-2 win of its own.
Hixson won the first set by 25-16 before Central prevailed in the second by a similar 25-14 score. Hixson then got the upper hand with a 25-18 win in the third set before the Lady Pounders once again evened the match with a 25-21 win in the fourth set.
The fifth and deciding set wasn't nearly as close or intense as the Lady Pounders rolled to a 15-7 victory.
"I think these girls are peaking at the right time," Central coach Robin Moore said after offering hugs and high fives to anyone within reach after that match ended.
"This was a huge win for us as it's been a long, long time since Central advanced to the Region tournament in volleyball. They had beaten us 3-2 in the regular season, so we knew it would be a battle.
"I guess you have to go through the valleys to reach the peaks and that's what we did after that third set. We were in a tough spot, but we knew what to do and it turned out well," Moore added.
"We played about as well as we can play," said an emotionally-drained Hixson coach Janet Tate after her team's season ended at 21-26.
"We played our tails off tonight and I just couldn't ask for anything more. It seems like we're the walking wounded with four regulars out, but Central has a good team," Tate nodded.
Sam Scott had nine aces for the match to lead Central, but none were any bigger than four straight to open the fifth set.
Central raced to a 6-0 lead and never looked back as Hixson was unable to overcome that early deficit.
Tiffany Estep had 25 kills and 18 digs to lead the Central attack while Rebekah Hill had a dozen kills and 16 digs. Scott finished with nine aces and 15 digs while Chasidy Ainslie had 20 assists in both matches.
Ceria Taylor was the leader for the Lady Wildcats as she finished witha triple double, including 15 digs, 10 assists and 10 kills. She also had a pair of aces as well.
Abby Tipton had 26 digs while Tatyona Staten had a half-dozen blocks.
Former Red Bank coach Christel Brooks got a chance to talk to the Lionettes before the action began and her message must have hit home.
"We played hard, had fun and worked together as a team," Red Bank coach Mandi Munn summarized her team's play after they had improved to 19-23 with their most important win of the season so far.
"Coach Brooks talked to them this afternoon about the goals they had set, but this what they're capable of doing. It's just a matter of getting it out of them, but if we keep playing like we did tonight, they can go as far as they want.
"I thought we were really focused from the start, but we like playing at home. Every one of these girls stepped it up tonight as this is what we've been working for all season," Munn nodded.
Abby Graham had 18 assists and 11 digs to lead the Red Bank attack while Autumn Babb had 18 digs and Caitlyn Jenkins 13 kills.
Rabbit Lawrence had 36 assists, 18 digs and 10 kills to go along with five aces for the two matches to lead East Ridge.
Rickell Hill had 31 digs and eight aces while Hannah Eldridge had 18 kills and 34 digs in addition to eight aces. Michelle Hughes had 11 kills, five blocks and four aces for the Lady Pioneers.
Thursday's championship match is set to begin at 6 p.m.
CENTRAL STATS FOR BOTH MATCHES
Chasidy Ainslie -- 40 assists;
Tiffany Estep -- 43 kills, 18 digs, 3 aces;
Lexie Ainslie -- 32 assists, 8 aces;
Rebekah Hill -- 12 kills, 16 digs;
Adrian McClurg -- 5 kills;
Sam Scott -- 9 aces, 15 digs.
HIXSON'S STATS FOR CENTRAL MATCH:
Ceria Taylor -- 2 aces, 10 kills, 15 digs, 10 assists;
Bailey Burba -- 1 kill, 7 digs, 10 assists;
Jessica Green -- 1 ace, 9 digs;
Tatyona Staten -- 5 kills, 3 digs, 6 blocks;
Cayla Jacobs -- 4 kills, 1 block;
Marissa Murray -- 2 kills, 2 digs;
Morgan White -- 4 aces, 3 kills, 7 digs, 1 block;
Abby Tipton -- 26 digs;
Courtney Jones -- 2 kills;
Virginia Rivers -- 1 kill;
Myka McGee -- 1 kill, 1 block.
EAST RIDGE STATS FOR BOTH MATCHES:
Rickell Hill -- 8 aces, 31 digs;
De'Jha Billingsley -- 8 kills;
Tamara Sandridge -- 16 digs, 2 aces;
Ieashia Taylor -- 6 kills, 1 block, 1 ace, 16 digs;
Rabbit Lawrence -- 36 assists, 10 kills, 5 aces, 18 digs;
Shania Douglas -- 2 kills;
Michelle Hughes -- 11 kills, 5 blocks, 4 aces;
Hannah Eldridge -- 18 kills, 8 aces, 34 digs.
RED BANK STATS FOR EAST RIDGE MATCH:
Abby Graham -- 4 kills, 2 aces, 11 digs, 18 assists;
Kiki Adkins -- 12 digs, 3 aces;
Autumn Babb -- 18 digs;
Caitlyn Jenkins -- 13 kills, 5 digs;
Ally Walker -- 9 kills, 3 digs;
Rachel Thornbury -- 1 ace, 7 digs, 10 assists;
Hannah Wilson -- 14 digs, 3 aces;
Dani Usher -- 1 kill, 3 blocks;
Jasmine Simpson -- 6 kills, 2 blocks;
Marjorie Smith -- 4 kills, 1 block, 1 ace.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)