MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Houston had a problem Tuesday night.
It was Cleveland.
In a Class AAA state volleyball tournament loser’s bracket showdown, Cleveland fell behind 2-0, but rallied to win the final three sets and escape with a hard-fought five-set victory to avoid elimination at Blackman High School.
Set scores were 25-12, 25-18, 24-26, 23-25 and 16-14.
The Lady Blue Raiders opened its second straight appearance with a 3-0 loss to powerful Brentwood by scores of 25-21, 25-12 and 25-23.
There was a controversial ending to the third set and Cleveland coach Trish Flowers was so upset she didn’t talk to reporters until after the night match against Houston.
By staying alive, the Lady Raiders (34-16) move on to play Collierville at 10 a.m. CT at Middle Tennessee State University. The loser will be eliminated from the tournament.
“We didn’t want tonight to be our last night,” senior Emma Flowers said. “After the third game, I thought we had it. We showed a lot of grit and competitiveness. We didn’t come over here to lose on the first day. Every team here is good and I’m proud of the way we fought to the end.”
On the brink of elimination, Cleveland had a 21-17 lead in the third set, but Houston got four straight kills – two each by Sarah Fleisher and Madison Weir – to tie the score.
The Lady Raiders took a 24-21 lead. The Lady Mustangs rallied to tie it up. Flowers got a kill for the go-ahead point and Weir sent a kill shot into the net.
At one point in Set 4, Cleveland had an 18-12 lead, but things got tight in a hurry. The score was dead even at 22-all when the two teams swapped unforced errors. Cleveland got the final two points on two more errors by Houston, forcing a fifth and deciding Set 5.
The Lady Raiders were up 7-4 when Houston’s Rekiyah Spears rammed home five kills and Weir added one as Houston took a 10-7 lead. A Houston error and kills by Sophia Lakatosh and Flowers evened the score.
At 12-all, Flowers crammed two more kills – she had 30 in the match – down the Lady Mustangs’ throat for a 14-12 lead. Houston clawed back to tie the score again.
Houston’s Rylie Hearn sent a kill past the baseline and Flowers finished off the stunning comeback with her 30th kill.
“You have to be mentally tough in a big match like this one,” Flowers said.
Trish Flowers faulted herself for not preparing the Lady Raiders better for the Houston match and it took her team two sets to come alive.
“Winning tonight makes up for not getting to a fourth set against Brentwood,” she said.
Brentwood 3, Cleveland 0: Trailing 2-0, Cleveland fought the Lady Bruins, who have appeared in 25 state tournaments, reached 19 finals and won 12 titles, on equal terms in the finale and trailed 19-16 late.
The Lady Raiders tied the match at 19-19 on Lakatosh’s ace. Flowers’ kill a few minutes later gave Cleveland a 23-22 advantage. A kill by junior Logan Eggleston, a 6-foot-2 powerhouse outside hitter who has committed to Texas, tied the score.
On the next rally, Eggleston’s kill down the sideline was ruled out and Cleveland had a 24-23 lead.
For about 30 seconds.
The call was overturned and Brentwood was given the set’s 24th point. One official ruled the ball was tipped by a Brentwood player, but the call was overturned and the point went to the Lady Bruins.
“That third set was so devastating to the girls,” the coach said. “There should be something a coach could do, but there was no time. What should have happened was a replay. We have film showing there was no touch. A line judge should not decide a game like that.”
Moments later, Flowers’ push shot went long and the Lady Bruins (35-6) won the match.
The first set was tied 21-21 when the Lady Bruins scored four straight points – Eggleston had three kills – to take a 1-0 lead.
Brentwood, the defending champion, took control of the second set with a 6-0 run, aided by five straight errors by Cleveland and capped by Eggleston’s kill. A 4-0 spurt pushed Brentwood’s margin to 19-9. The Lady Bruins scored six of the final eight points to take the set.
Cleveland errors gave Brentwood its 24th and 25th points.
Cleveland vs. Brentwood
Anna Renshaw – 4 digs, 2 kills, 27 assists
Emma Flowers – 12 digs, 25 kills
Hannah Longley – 15 digs, 1 assist
Joy Douglass – 1 ace, 9 digs, 1 kill, 1 assist
Kenli Young – 1 dig, 1 assist
Lily Oliver – 1 block
Lydia Martin – 7 digs
Nicole Glaser – 3 aces, 3 kills, 3 digs
Sofia Lakatosh – 2 aces, 5 digs
Cleveland vs Houston
Anna Renshaw – 1 ace, 1 block, 17 digs, 1 kill, 34 assists
Emma Flowers – 1 ace, 2 blocks, 19 digs, 30 kills
Hannah Longley – 1 ace, 18 digs, 2 assists
Joy Douglass – 3 aces, 1 block, 1 kill
Kenli Young – 5 digs
Lily Oliver – 2 blocks, 2 kills
Nicole Glaser – 1 ace, 3 blocks, 5 kills
Sofia Lakatosh – 4 digs, 2 kills
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)