Hayes-Led East Hamilton Rolls Past Upperman 3-0 In Sectional

Lady Canes Clinch First State Volleyball Berth Since 2012

Thursday, October 12, 2017 - by Larry Fleming
East Hamilton's Emma Mitchell skies for a kill against Upperman in a Class 2A TSSAA Sectional volleyball match on Thursday as Lady Hurricanes coach Bruan Langner, right, watches. East Hamilton won 3-0 and earned a berth in the state tournament next week in Murfreesboro.
East Hamilton's Emma Mitchell skies for a kill against Upperman in a Class 2A TSSAA Sectional volleyball match on Thursday as Lady Hurricanes coach Bruan Langner, right, watches. East Hamilton won 3-0 and earned a berth in the state tournament next week in Murfreesboro.
- photo by Dennis Norwood

East Hamilton’s return to Class 2A after a rough stretch in Class 3A has resulted in the Lady Hurricanes’ first trip back to the TSSAA state volleyball tournament in five years.

The Lady Canes turned defeated Upperman 3-0 Thursday night and completed a goal set back in the summer to make a triumphant return to Murfreesboro under first-year coach Bruna Langner.

Dispensing with a pattern of dropping a set against opponents, the Lady Canes were on target all night and won by set scores of 25-19, 25-18 and 25-21.

“I just told the girls that we can’t be satisfied to just get to state,” said Langner, who took over as East Hamilton’s coach after leaving a similar post at Dalton State College. “The district and region tournaments helped us today, but we can still improve. It’s going to be tough, but if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, I have high hopes for us at state.”

East Hamilton appeared in the 2011 and 2012 state tournaments. A move up to Class 3A proved rough for the Lady Canes, but they are back on the state tournament circuit thanks to the play of their most consistent players -- sophomore Madison Hayes, one of the state’s top young basketball prospects, and junior Hillary English.

It was Hayes who got East Hamilton, which claimed District 6-2A and Region 3-2A tournament titles in the last two weeks, off to a roaring start in the first set, scoring the first four points, five of the first 12 and finished with 11 of 25 to set the tempo for the match. She finished with 18 kills, three digs and 5 aces – her serves are like watching Serena Williams serve blue-darters on the tennis court.

English came through with the best statistic line of the night: 10 digs, 30 assists, 2 aces and 1 block.

Their return to state was the main topic for the Lady Canes after the match.

“Our team believed in what we could do,” Madison Hayes said. “We’re having fun together, the coaches are helping us and the players are playing well right now.”

Said English: “I’m very excited. I’m ready. We’ve been preparing for this since the summer and we’re ready for state. I can think of three main things that got this far – setting, hitting and passing. We’ve improved a lot in those areas.”

Since the back-to-back state appearances, in which the Lady Canes were a combined 68-32, East Hamilton moved up a classification and got past the District 5-3A tournament only once. The Lady Canes lost to Ooltewah in the 2014 district championship game and was eliminated from the postseason with a Region 3-3A semifinal loss to Cookeville.

Langner’s squad shattered that string of misses this season and a nice crowd, despite students being out for fall break, indicates the Lady Canes are back on track for success.

“It’s exhilarating,” said Raine Phillips, who had six kills and one block against the Lady Bees, the runner-up from Region 4-2A. “I never thought we’d get to state to be honest, but now that I’ve seen this team grow from where we started I’m really impressed with what we’ve done.”

Upperman tied the first set at 8-8 and 14-14, but Hayes rocked the Lady Bees with two straight kills and English threw in an ace. The Lady Canes had two straight unforced errors, but then ran off six consecutive points – Hayes had three of her five aces in the spree – and went up 23-16.

Emma Mitchell got the 24th point on a cross-court kill and Phillips’ killed sealed the opening win.

In Set 2, Olivia Taylor’s kill pulled Upperman to within 14-11, but East Hamilton, which will ride a six-match winning streak into the state tournament, score four points on two Lady Bees errors and a slap-shot by Hayes and an English kill to take an 18-11 advantage.

Upperman climbed to within 19-16 only to see Hayes rocket a 17-foot kill down the middle and English score on a slap.

Mitchell scored the 23rd and 24th points and when Katie Taylor’s kill sailed long East Hamilton had a 2-0 lead.

“My kids are very athletic, they’re pretty coachable and we’re playing as one,” Langner said. “We talk a lot about making a cake. There’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that, mix it together and you come up with a cake. Playing as a team has helped us and we had one goal this year and that was to make state.

“We didn’t worry about who won this award or that award. We did everything together.”

The Lady Canes’ focus was spot on in the third set, thus avoiding what had been a pattern during the season of letting down at some point in several matches.

The score was tied at 12-all and the margin stayed within two or three points until McKenna Hayes, Madison’s eighth-grade sister who has a ton of athletic potential, threw down a kill and Big Sis served another blistering ace for a 21-17 lead.

East Hamilton’s lead was 22-20 when Mitchell scored on a push and Phillips’ kill provided the 24th point. A service error gave Upperman a point, but Madison Hayes finished off the match with a monster kill.

“We have to go to state wanting to win,” Madison Hayes said. “We have to work hard in practice now and put it all out there in games. This feels great knowing how hard we worked to get there.”

And Langner had one other comment she wanted to make about reaching the big show in Murfreesboro.

“When I got this job, I said if this team worked hard – I’m very competitive – our goal was to make the state tournament,” the coach said. “Some people said, ‘Well, I don’t know if that will happen.

“But these kids kept getting better and better. And I kept hearing that voice saying, ‘You can’t get to state; you can’t get to state.’ We didn’t have to be the best team in the world, tonight we just had to be better than Upperman. And we are going to state. We’ll worry about who we play when we get there.”

STATISTICS

East Hamilton

Caroline Clement – 2 kills, 1 assist

Taryn Robinson – 1 kill, 8 digs

Emma Mitchell – 6 kills

Raine Phillips – 6 kills, 1 block

Jala Price – 6 digs

Madison Hayes – 18 kills, 3 digs, 5 aces

Jordyn Griffith – 3 kills

Hillary English – 10 digs, 30 assists, 2 aces, 1 block

McKenna Hayes – 5 kills, 1 ace, 3 blocks

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)

 
Raine Phillips of East Hamilton (22) tries to get a shot past Upperman's Reagan White during their Class 2A Sectional showdown Thursday. Phillips  finished with six kills in a 3-0 victory. The Lady Hurricanes earned a spot in their first state tournament since 2012.
Raine Phillips of East Hamilton (22) tries to get a shot past Upperman's Reagan White during their Class 2A Sectional showdown Thursday. Phillips finished with six kills in a 3-0 victory. The Lady Hurricanes earned a spot in their first state tournament since 2012.
- Photo2 by Dennis Norwood


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