Signal Mountain Hits One Last Bump In The Road At State Volleyball

Portland Ends Lady Eagles' Run Toward Title With 3-1 Victory

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - by Larry Fleming
East Hamilton's Hillary English tries to block a smash at the net by Signal Mountain's Briley Lowry  during their match Wednesday morning in the Class AA state volleyball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University. The Lady Eagles won 3-1.
East Hamilton's Hillary English tries to block a smash at the net by Signal Mountain's Briley Lowry during their match Wednesday morning in the Class AA state volleyball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University. The Lady Eagles won 3-1.
- photo by Dennis Norwood

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – It’s not like Signal Mountain hasn’t been down this bumpy road before.

Despite the obstacles created by losing early in the TSSAA state volleyball tournament, the Lady Eagles have proven to be cautious, but relentless drivers on a path back to title contention twice before.

They’re on the same course this October.

After losing to Knox Catholic to start this year’s tourney, the Lady Eagles bounced back by beating Dyersburg on Wednesday and followed that up with a 3-1 victory over East Hamilton Wednesday morning in the Class AA bracket. Scores were 25-15, 22-25, 25-23 and 28-26.

Signal Mountain (43-9) had about a 90-minute break before continuing its comeback trail against Camden at 3:30 p.m. CT at Middle Tennessee State University.

“I feel like positivity helps us a lot,” said senior Maia Rackel, a strong leader this year because she played on the 2014 and 2016 squads that made a bit of history on the big stage in Murfreesboro.

Four years ago, the Lady Eagles lost to CAK in the quarterfinals and then beat Harpeth, Dyersburg and Knox Catholic to reach the championship game where they lost to CAK.

In 2016, Signal Mountain did it all over again, losing a first-round match to Sullivan South. The Lady Eagles rebounded with wins over Jackson South Side, Dyersburg, Page and Sullivan South to earn a spot in the title round. They lost to Knox Catholic and finished second once more.

How do the Lady Eagles beat the odds so frequently?

“We have a lot of amazing players, really motivated girls,” Rackel said. “Right now we have confidence, not to the point we’re cocky, but we just have a lot of confidence.”

The Lady Eagles kept their hopes alive with a 3-1 victory over Camden, with scores of 25-18, 25-13, 23-25 and 25-18.

But first-year coach Bailee Barrett’s squad ran into a tough Portland outfit, lost 3-1 and was eliminated from the tournament – one game shy of Thursday’s championship match.

After splitting the first two sets with East Hamilton, the Lady Eagles regained the upper hand in the third with a 7-0 run that produced a 17-12 lead. Signal Mountain was still up 22-19, but East Hamilton’s Madison Hayes racked up a kill and two aces to tie the match.

At 23-all, Signal’s Olivia Power ripped a kill – one of 14 in the match – and Hayes’ kill shot found the net and the Lady Hurricanes were in a 2-1 hole.

Following the match, Signal Mountain coach Bailee Barrett warned statewide teams what they might expect in the next two years from the Lady Canes.

“I think East Hamilton will be a state contender for the next couple years,” she said. “They have so much talent, and it’s young. They’re going to be a force. I’ll take this win over East Hamilton, but it’s going to be tough for a few years.”

It was more than tough in Set 4. It was downright brutal on the collective nerves of both teams.

East Hamilton built a 7-5 advantage, but the Lady Eagles scored  nine straight points and Lowry scored three times. The scrappy Lady Canes (23-5) scratched and clawed and pulled to within 22-20.

Signal Mountain scored twice before the Lady Canes rallied with five straight points and had a slim 25-24 advantage – Hayes had a kill and an ace in the spree. Signal scored twice for a 26-25 edge. East Hamilton tied the score on a Lady Eagles error.

Power decided the outcome with a couple of dinks.

“We had our moments,” Barrett said, “but we’re still a little inconsistent. We played well enough to keep going.”

East Hamilton coach Bruna Langner was disappointed, obviously, but just as strongly proud of her team on an excellent season.

“We hung with Signal Mountain,” she said. “We did really well and hope to build on this. We are first-year coaches and a bunch of babies and I’m really of them. They can keep their heads up and we learned a lot from this season.”

East Hamilton’s roster for the state tournament lists five sophomores, four juniors, one freshman, two eighth-graders and two seniors.

Signal Mountain 3, Camden 1: The Lady Eagles methodically built a 2-0 lead and appeared to be headed for a sweep. The Lady Lions, however, refused to roll over and took the third set, forcing a fourth.

Signal had a 13-7 lead and Camden sliced it to 20-18. Olivia Powers notched a kill and started a 5-0 run that closed out the match. Mackenzie Lewis added a block and Camden committed three straight unforced errors to end it.

Portland 3, Signal Mountain 1: The Lady Panthers, a bit more rested than the Lady Eagles since they had about 20 minutes to recover from the Camden contest, grabbed a 2-0 lead.

The Lady Eagles were up 15-13 in the first set Portland outscored them 12-1 in the closing minutes, with McKennah Parker scoring the final three points on aces.

The second set was a bummer for Signal, which had a 24-20 advantage and saw the Lady Lions score six straight points, including three kills, a dink and a Lady Eagle error on the 26th point.

Nursing an 18-14 lead in the third, Signal got a Megan Kincer slap, a Kate Barry ace, a Rackel block and a Portland double hit to open a nine-point margin. Rackel’s kill, one of 51 she had in the three games, notched the 24th point and an error gave Signal the win.

The Lady Eagles trailed 10-8 in the fourth and Portland eight of the next nine points and doubled the score at 18-9. The Lady Lions were up 21-16 when Katie Crutchfield and Marlayna Bullington had kills. Rackel scored on a kill, one of 24 for her in the final match, but Bullington’s slap and Crutchfield’s ace sent the Lady Eagles packing.

“We had seven losses in the regular season, all coming in weekend tournaments and we lost here Tuesday and today,” Barrett said. “If you have only nine losses with 43 wins that’s a heck of a season.

“This team was a mix of youth and older players with a lot of leadership. I’m pleased how they’ve played. It’s tough to lose at the end of a long day, but it was a good season. It’s hard to see that right now and be OK with that.”

STATISTICS

East Hamilton vs. Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain

Kate Barry – 5 kills, 34 assists, 1 block, 2 aces, 20 digs

Cora Hansen – 2 blocks, 7 kills, 6 digs

Alexia Hensley – 3 digs

Mackenzie Lewis – 3 kills, 6 digs

Francie Hunt – 8 digs, 1 ace

Megan Kincer – 1 block, 2 kills, 2 digs

Briley Lowry – 13 digs

Olivia Powers – 4 aces, 14 kills, 14 digs

Maia Rackel – 15 kills, 10 digs, 4 blocks, 1 ace

East Hamilton

Raine Phillips – 1 ace, 3 kills, 3 blocks, 2 digs

Madison Hayes – 8 aces, 21 kills, 1 block, 13 digs

Jala Price – 4 digs

Taryn Robinson – 2 kills, 3 digs

Jordyn Griffith – 1 kill, 1 block, 1 dig

Sydney Batten – 2 aces, 2 digs

Emma Mitchell – 6 kills, 1 dig

Haley Mangrum – 2 digs

Hillary English – 2 kills, 23 assists, 1 block, 4 digs

Signal Mountain vs. Camden

Signal Mountain

Kate Barry – 40 assists, 13 digs

Cora Hansen – 9 kills, 8 digs, 2 blocks

Francie Hunt – 9 digs

Megan Kincer – 2 kills, 1 dig

Mackenzie Lewis – 1 block, 4 kills, 2 digs

Briley Lowry – 13 digs, 3 aces

Olivia Powers – 1 ace, 1 block, 15 kills, 15 digs

Maia Rackel – 12 kills, 25 digs, 1 block, 1 ace

Signal Mountain vs. Portland

Signal Mountain

Kate Barry – 2 aces, 3 kills, 35 assists, 11 digs

Cora Hansen – 2 kills, 2 digs, 3 blocks

Francie Hunt – 1 ace, 6 digs

Megan Kincer – 6 digs, 1 kill

Mackenzie Lewis – 3 kills, 6 digs

Briley Lowry – 21 digs, 1 ace

Olivia Powers – 2 aces, 2 blocks, 8 kills, 11 digs

Maia Rackel – 24 kills, 17 digs, 3 blocks

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

 

 

Cora Hansen of Signal Mountain unleashes a kill as East Hamilton standout Madison Hayes defends Wednesday in state volleyball tournament action at MTSU. Signal Mountain won the match 3-1 and was eventually eliminated by Portland later in the day.
Cora Hansen of Signal Mountain unleashes a kill as East Hamilton standout Madison Hayes defends Wednesday in state volleyball tournament action at MTSU. Signal Mountain won the match 3-1 and was eventually eliminated by Portland later in the day.
- Photo2 by Dennis Norwood

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