Bradley Central took East Hamilton, one of the better volleyball teams in Southeast Tennessee regardless of classification, to five sets in their first meeting on Aug. 15 in Cleveland.
“So, Bradley is not a team you can underestimate,” Lady Hurricanes coach Bojana Hyatt said after her team’s 3-0 sweep of the Bearettes at East Hamilton High School. “They gave us a run for our money the first time and we prepared mentally for tonight’s match.
We could not take them for granted.”
Although the Lady Canes (19-2) had lapses at moments, they were solid enough to more than handle the Bearettes (13-16) by set scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 25-11.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the match,” Bradley coach Christie McElhaney said. “We were point for point with them. We got to point 19 and kind of fell off. The same thing happened in the second set and we didn’t show up in the third.”
While the Bearettes played courageously in the first two sets, losing by a total of nine points, East Hamilton jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the finale, scored five of the next seven points and had a 15-5 advantage.
Raine Phillips scored twice, including a brilliant shot on a cross-court tap, fast-improving McKenna Hayes knocked down a kill on Hillary English’s assist and Bradley tossed in an unforced error in the short spree.
“When the season started I was about a four on the (zero to 10) scale,” Hayes said. “I played ball in the summer and went back to basketball and it was hard to get in a groove. Now I’m catching up and I’d say I’m about a nine.”
With the 10-point cushion, the Lady Canes put the sledgehammer down and went on a 10-6 run to close out the set. Hayes scored four points on a block, an impressive flip and two aces down the stretch.
Kristina Michalkova, an exchange student from Slovakia, scored on a tap and shared a block with Hayes against Bradley’s Mary B. Smith’s shot.
Allison Giles’ slap produced the Bearettes’ 20th point, Madison Hayes, McKenna’s older sister, recorded a kill and English blocked Bradley’s Kelsey Carman for the 25th point to end the match.
“Kristina brings a lot of energy to our team,” Madison Hayes said. “She has power and we can always use another good hitter. Everybody wanted her on the team when we had tryouts and she’s making a great contribution. She’s a great person and good teammate and that’s what it’s all about.”
Said Hyatt about Michalkova, “Kristina is very athletic and works hard. She missed a lot of volleyball in the summer and spring, but she’s catching up now. We like having her as part of our team.”
In Set 1, Bradley’s Smith slap gave the Bearettes an 11-7 lead, but the Lady Canes stormed back to grab a 13-12 lead with four consecutive points – the Hayes sisters scored two points each in the spurt.
Kierstyn Viola slap gave Bradley an 18-17 lead, but East Hamilton scored six of the next seven points, including kills by Madison Hayes and Michalkova, who is impressive making shots on the run, and two English aces.
“I serve pretty well,” said English, who was credited with six aces, 29 assists, one block and eight digs. “I mess up sometimes, but try to target the serve wherever coach tells me to.”
Bradley’s Kaitlin Hullender scored to stop the Lady Canes’ run, but Cassidy Lowe’s serve found the net, giving East Hamilton its 24th point. A Lady Canes ace salted away the set. Hullender finished with three kills, three digs and three blocks.
Again, the Bearettes got off to a quick start in the second set, building a 6-3 lead before the Lady Canes reeled off eight straight points with McKenna Hayes firing three aces and Madison Hayes adding a kill. The Bearettes hurt their own cause with three errors and East Hamilton had an 11-6 advantage.
East Hamilton got sloppy with six errors minutes later and Bradley’s Kelsey Carman notched her only ace and Amelia Reuter, who finished with five kills, tossed in a winning slap and the Bearettes zipped into a 15-13 lead.
East Hamilton got back on solid footing by scoring four straight points – Raine Phillips and Michalkova each had kills and English fired two aces.
Bradley’s Abigail Leonard, served up two aces and the Lady Canes committed two errors and the Bearettes had a 19-17 lead.
East Hamilton outscored Bradley, 8-2, down the stretch and McKenna Hayes’ ace enabled the Lady Canes to grab the 2-0 lead.
“I work hard in practice and do what I have to do in games,” Hayes said. “Our team is playing great right now (the Lady Canes have won 12 straight matches since losing to Hume-Fogg, 2-0, in the Choo Choo Classic at Red Bank on Aug. 31. “We still have a lot of work to do to get to state and win state. We have to give it everything we’ve got.”
In the Lady Canes’ winning streak, they have won 29 of 35 sets and posted seven sweeps along the way.
McElhaney said the Bearettes went through two hard practice sessions working primarily on mental conditioning prior to Wednesday’s match. However, the results didn’t show up against the Lady Canes.
“We slacked off in those practices,” the coach said. “As a result, we were a step off in everything we did in tonight’s match. We’ve told the girls that (bad practices) would cost them and now they realize they can’t take days off in practice and still compete.”
The Bearettes return home to host McMinn County on Thursday on Senior Night will go into that match without time to practice.
“The girls either have to mentally pick it up or it could be the same scenario as tonight,” McElhaney said.
Kierstyn Viola – 1 kill, 1 block
Ashlan Crittenden – 1 ace, 1 kill, 3 digs
Taylor White – 15 digs
Riley Sermons – 7 digs, 7 assists
Cassidy Lowe – 2 digs
Amelia Reuter – 5 kills,
Mary B. Smith – 1 kill, 3 digs
Autumn Allen – 1 ace, 6 digs, 8 assists
Kelsey Carman – 1 ace, 3 kills, 6 digs, 8 assists
Abigail Leonard – 2 aces, 1 kill
Kaitlin Hullender – 3 kills, 3 digs, 3 blocks
Madison Hayes – 11 kills, 2 assists, 1 block, 12 digs
Hillary English – 6 aces, 29 assists, 1 block, 8 digs
Kayla Ford – 3 digs
McKenna Hayes – 7 aces, 6 blocks, 7 digs
Raine Phillips – 6 kills, 1 dig
Sydney Batten – 2 digs
Allison Giles – 3 kills
Emma Mitchell – 3 digs
Kristian Michalkova – 2 aces, 6 kills, 2 blocks, 7 digs
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)