East Hamilton and Red Bank have developed quite a rivalry in volleyball as they always seem to bring out the best in each other.
These two had split two earlier matches this fall with Red Bank winning the last one in a tight 3-2 battle.
They faced each other on Thursday evening for the championship of District 6-AA at Hixson and for the second-straight year, the Lionettes came out on top, 3-1.
East Hamilton won the first one by 25-13 before Red Bank won the last three by scores of 25-23, 25-13 and 25-20.
East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir admitted before the match ever began that her team had really been through some tough times in recent weeks with some devastating internal issues, but have somehow rallied to reach Thursday night's championship match with a berth in next week's regional already secure.
The Lady Hurricanes came out in the first set and played like champions. Every ball they hit was on target and every serve hit its spot. Everything that could have gone right for East Hamilton did and everything that could possibly go wrong for Red Bank did as well.
East Hamilton won that first set with relative ease, but things slowly began to change in Red Bank's favor.
The Lionettes led from the first serve of the second set and were in total control when a block by Caitlyn Jenkins gave Red Bank a seemingly-comfortable 24-18 lead.
The Lady Hurricanes rallied to score the next five points, but Savannah Nelson saved the day for the Lionettes with a kill on set-point.
Red Bank got more aggressive up front in the third set as 15 points were scored on kills with Nelson getting five and Allison Walker, Shelby Hayes and Jenkins three each. Walker had the last two to secure the 25-13 victory.
The momentum swung East Hamilton's way at the start of the fourth set with the Lady Hurricanes leading 8-3 and later 13-6 before Red Bank started its comeback.
A kill by Nelson knotted the score at 15 before a couple of East Hamilton mistakes gave Red Bank its first lead at 17-15. A kill by East Hamilton's Kennedy Fager tied the score again at 18-all, but Red Bank then scored seven of the final nine points to win the match, including another kill by Nelson on match point.
"I'm very happy and extremely proud of these girls," said Red Bank coach Kristel Brooks after her team had improved to 36-8 overall.
"We got off to a rocky start as we were tense and nervous and tight. Nothing seemed to go right, but we refocused in the huddle. I told them they had won 35 matches for a reason and that's when we started to turn things around.
"We had to believe in ourselves, but they got that fire back in their eyes. They had been keying on Savannah, so we had some other girls who stepped up. We were able to regain ball control and started playing smarter after that," Brooks added.
The Lady Hurricanes are now 30-18 following Thursday's match. Coach Lenoir is just happy and relieved they are still playing.
"We played a great first game as we were awesome, but we relaxed and made too many errors after that. Red Bank buckled down and won that second game. They took off from there," Lenoir began.
"We've struggled the last couple of weeks, but I feel like it's a major accomplishment that we're even still playing. I'm not happy from beginning to end today, but we'll take a couple of days off and see what happens next week," Lenoir nodded.
Hayes finished with 13 kills to lead Red Bank's attack up front while Nelson, Helton and Walker all followed with 10 each.
Abby Graham had 36 assists while Hayes also had 24 digs. Helton and Autumn Babb both finished with 20 digs each.
Helton's play earned her the MVP for the tournament.
Emma Lenoir was the most consistent player for East Hamilton as she finished with 14 kills, 18 assists, nine digs and four blocks.
Kylie Scruggs finished with 10 kills and 11 digs for the Lady Hurricanes while teammates Morgan Phillips had 14 digs and Sydney Harris 16 assists.
Both teams return to action in the Region 3-AA tournament, which will be held at Red Bank's Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium on Tuesday.
Red Bank faces McMinn Central in the first match at 4:30 while East Hamilton tackles Polk County immediately afterward. The two winners then play for the championship around 7:30.
DISTRICT 6-AA ALL-TOURNAMENT: Abby Graham, Shelby Hayes, Savannah Nelson, Ansley Helton-MVP (Red Bank); Emily Clemmons, Briley Considine, Emma Lenoir, Kylie Scruggs (East Hamilton); Kennady Thomason, Chance Davis (Hixson); Tiffani Estep, Taylor Williamson (Central).
EAST HAMILTON STATS:
Kylie Scruggs -- 10 kills, 11 digs, 1 ace;
Emma Lenoir -- 14 kills, 4 blocks, 9 digs, 18 assists;
Morgan Phillips -- 14 digs, 3 kills;
Emily Clemmons -- 9 digs;
Sydney Harris -- 16 assists, 9 digs;
Kennedy Fager -- 8 kills, 1.5 blocks;
Briley Considine -- 3 kills, 2 blocks, 3 aces;
Meredith Stott -- 3 blocks, 2 kills.
RED BANK STATS:
Savannah Nelson -- 10 kills, 5 blocks, 2 digs;
Ansley Helton -- 10 kills, 1 block, 20 digs;
Shelby Hayes -- 13 kills, 24 digs, 3 aces;
Abby Graham -- 2 kills, 36 assists, 13 digs;
Autumn Babb -- 20 digs;
Allison Walker -- 10 kills, 3 assists;
Hannah Wilson -- 12 digs;
Caitlyn Jenkins -- 3 kills 3 digs.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)