Walker Valley couldn’t finish the second set.
East Hamilton did.
And the Lady Mustangs were done.
The host Lady Hurricanes outscored Walker Valley, 7-1, to win the second 26-24 for a two-set edge and went on to sweep the first District 5-AAA match between the two teams, 3-0.
“If you can’t score two points to win a game,” Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett said, “then you don’t deserve to win the game.”
After rallying from a 23-18 deficit to win the second set, the Lady Hurricanes (7-7 overall, 2-3 District 5-AAA) won the finale, 25-17, to complete the sweep.
East Hamilton took the first set, 25-22.
“I thought we had good intensity from start to finish, which is something we have lacked,” said East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir, one member of a super sports family. “We have tended to be a roller coaster team.
“I’m happy that we battled hard and came back to win the second game, and that was big.”
Sophomore hitter Emma Lenoir, daughter of the coach, was instrumental in the Lady Hurricanes’ win in the best-of-five match.
With the first set tied at 12-12, Lenoir scored six of the next seven points to open an 18-13 advantage. Lenoir’s slam off a Walker Valley player that went side out, gave the Lady Hurricanes a 19-15 lead and then junior hitter Meredith Stott scored back-to-back points on a deft soft shot and then a mega-slam, and senior Sydney Harris’ kill put Walker Valley in a 21-16 hole.
Lenoir’s hard slam, this one also ricocheting off a Lady Mustangs player and out of the court, capped the 25-22 first-set win.
“I played pretty good,” Lenoir said. “I got a few kills and got most of my serves in. I thought the team was consistent after not playing very consistent in the (Choo Choo) tournament. If we play consistent, we’ll win more games.”
Lenoir had a monster effort: 25 kills, 10 digs, 11 assists and one block.
She comes by her volleyball skill naturally. Her mother played at Tennessee and was an All-SEC performer in 1990 and received Academic All-SEC honors in 1990-91.
Emma’s father, Patrick, was a four-year letterman with the Vols’ football team as an offensive lineman from 1988-91. Her brother, Bailey, is a standout senior defensive end on East Hamilton’s unbeaten football team and being recruited by several colleges.
Emma and Stott form a formidable one-two punch at the net, but the Lady Hurricanes proved they are equally effective slamming or tipping for points at the net.
“The main thing,” Lenoir said, “is to keep the ball in play and when it’s a good set hit it hard.”
Many times, however, the Lady Hurricanes caught the Lady Mustangs off-guard with the “soft” winners.
Pruett noticed that, as well.
“They’ve got that figured out,” she said. “They did a good job of tipping the ball where we weren’t at the right time. The Lenoir girl can pound the ball and she can tip the ball. Their other girls, for them to win games, have to keep the ball in play so Emma can come along and slam the ball.
“We’re not a huge tipping team, although we do at times. But I prefer they hit the ball. We don’t go around practicing tips maybe as much as (East Hamilton) does.”
Down a set with the second tied at 13, Walker Valley (10-9, 2-2) outscored East Hamilton 10-5 to grab a five-point lead. The Lady Mustangs appeared close to leveling the match.
But the Lady Hurricanes, who reached the Class 2A state tournament Final Four in 2012 in their second straight state tourney appearance, had other ideas. They ran off six straight points for a 24-23 lead, the final point in the spree coming on Harris’ serve.
The Lady Mustangs tied the match at 24.
East Hamilton got a floor-denting kill from Lenoir and Briley Considine, a senior, hit a serve Walker Valley couldn’t handle and the Lady Hurricanes went up two sets to none.
Walker Valley got off to a 2-0 score in the third set, but the Lady Hurricanes reeled off six straight points – the first four came off slams by Lenoir – and eventually scored 12 of 13 points in the extended rally for a 12-3 advantage.
Following Lenoir’s kill, East Hamilton had a 20-11 lead, but Walker Valley scored four straight points to narrow the deficit. The Lady Hurricanes scored five of the next seven points – Stott’s slam that hit the end line clinched the sweep.
Pruett wasn’t happy after the match.
“That was probably our worst performance of the year so far,” she said. “I hope we can look forward to better things to come. Tonight, we just did not finish. We should have finished the second game. We had it, but couldn’t get the win. In the third game, we didn’t play defense or offense or anything.”
Pruett was asked how much the second set collapse impacted the third.
“I think we were not mentally up,” she said. “Even two points away from winning the girls didn’t show they wanted the win. I don’t know. I can’t read teenagers’ minds. I wish I could.
“Today, it was like we stepped out on the court thinking (East Hamilton) was going to give us the ballgame, and that just doesn’t happen.”
Conversely, Kristy Lenoir left the gymnasium buoyed by her team’s play.
“We served well, tonight, which was huge,” she said. “We’ve been in games where we missed a lot of serves and easy points. We played aggressive, too, so I can’t complain.”
Sydney Harris – 28 assists, 8 digs, 2 aces
Briley Considine – 12 digs, 3 aces, 2 kills
Miranda Roberson – 2 blocks, 1 kills
Samantha Headrick – 7 digs, 5 kills, 2 aces
Emma Lenoir – 25 kills, 11 assists, 10 digs, 1 block
Meredith Stott – 9 kills
Brenna Shaw – 2 aces
Kris Joo – 18 digs, 1 ace
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)