Strong starts are commonplace for the Silverdale Baptist Academy volleyball team.
Stout finishes have been okay for the Lady Seahawks as well.
It’s the middle ground that’s giving coach Lisa Davis’ squad some problems this season.
Silverdale jumped out to quick 7-0 and 9-1 leads against visiting Grace Baptist Academy on Tuesday night and eventually won the first set 25-20.
Like clockwork, Silverdale hit a dry spell and the Lady Golden Eagles won two straight sets by 25-19 and 25-18 scores to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five match.
As the routine has developed over the season, Silverdale took the fourth set, 25-22, and then claimed the fifth-set clincher, 15-11, to notch a hard-earned 3-2 District 5-A victory that lasted two hours.
“We always start off strong, but we have this little thing where we let the other team come back and we get down on ourselves,” Silverdale senior Mackenzie Harris said. “We’ve done this multiple times. Coach keeps telling us this should be a learning experience because we need to start strong and finish strong.”
Harris, one of only two seniors on the Silverdale roster, turned in another solid effort in Tuesday’s match by registering 10 digs, nine kills and eight assists.
Davis, the Lady Seahawks’ first-year coach who came to SBA from LaFayette, Ga., is glad to have Harris around this season.
“It’s an honor to be in her world,” Davis said. “She’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching. She has welcomed our younger girls with open arms, but she tries to carry the whole weight of the team on her shoulders. Sometimes that gets the best of her.”
In the deciding fifth set with the Lady Seahawks leading 5-3, Harris scored four of the team’s next five points to push the margin to 10-3.
The Lady Golden Eagles outscored Silverdale, 6-1, to slice the deficit to 11-9 only to see two miscues hand the final two points – and the match – to the Lady Seahawks.
“We wanted it (fifth set),” Harris said. “We wanted the win. I don’t what it is, but we let teams play with us, but tonight we really wanted that fifth game.”
It hasn’t always worked out for Silverdale as it did Tuesday night.
Davis recalled that her girls built a quick 11-1 lead over Chattanooga Schools for the Arts and Sciences only to lose in five sets.
“I’m proud of the way we jump on teams, but it’s a momentum thing with us,” she said. “You can’t serve the ball in the net and expect to keep your head up. We get a ball back in transition, it becomes our serve and we’ll get a point and serve the ball in the next again. If there’s ever a game where we keep our serve and the momentum, that’s where we get our runs.
“I’ve told the girls this game is too unpredictable and you cannot depend on going five sets and coming out strong. That’s what happened against CSAS.”
Grace (6-14, 2-3) made Silverdale (5-11, 4-1) work hard for the win.
Trailing 4-3 in the second set, the Lady Golden Eagles went on a 16-5 run and opened a 19-9 lead. The Lady Seahawks mounted a rally from being down 24-14, but came up short when Harris netted a serve to end the match.
In the third set, Grace trailed 15-10, but Silverdale battled back to grab an 18-17 lead. Grace ran off the set’s final eight points to win.
“We have a really young team,” Grace coach Hillary Waters said. “We worked hard, fought back and get back in the match. I thought our girls really played well against a really good Silverdale team.”
Against a Silverdale team that showed its grit in the final two sets, despite having two seniors -- Harris and Brianna Leffew, who hasn’t played since her freshman year – and a junior, while the rest of the players are sophomores and freshmen.
Leffew didn’t play last season due to a shoulder injury.
After pulling even at 2-2, one of the freshmen – Katie White – stepped up to help Harris and the Lady Seahawks get control of the fifth set.
White’s kill pushed the lead to 4-2. Sophomore Lindsay Barlew got a service point, sophomore Cheyenne Davis scored on a kill at the net, Harris scored two straight points, White slammed a shot off a Grace player for a point and Harris had back-to-back service winners for the 10-3 advantage.
Sophomore Caroline Couch got a point off a block at the net to give Silverdale an 11-9 lead, cutting off a Grace rally. Grave’s Serena Turner, who had 10 kills, 10 aces and one dig, hit a slam that barely missed the end baseline and Silverdale had a 13-9 lead.
Alexandra Smith scored two straight points, but she netted her next serve and a Lady Golden miscue near the net provided Silverdale with its final point.
“Grace is a scrappy team,” Davis said. “They’ve got some good young players, but they play club ball and Smith is one of them. She’s unbelievable. Like I said, we jumped on them early, but we’ve got to figure out how to keep our momentum going.”
Grace Baptist Academy:
Alexandra Smith – 11 kills, 9 digs, 7 aces
Claire McMasters – 13 kills, 4 blocks
Erin Cooke – 2 assists, 1 dig
Hannah Matthews – 4 digs, 2 assists, 1 kill, 1 block
Josie Fulgham – 22 assists, 1 ace
Krissy Aruca – 4 digs
Serena Turner – 10 kills, 10 aces, 1 dig
Silverdale Baptist Academy:
Mackenzie Harris – 10 digs, 9 kills, 8 assists
Caroline Couch – 5 kills, 5 digs, 2 assists
Cheyenne Davis – 5 kills, 5 blocks, 3 assists
Elise Pearson – 7 blocks, 5 kills
Brianna Leffew – 7 digs, 3 kills, 2 assists
Lindsay Barlew – 11 digs, 2 assists
Brittany Portwood – 7 digs, 4 assists
Katie White – 5 kills, 2 blocks
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)