Sale Creek’s volleyball team has totally dominated tournament play in District 5-A and it continued on Tuesday night at Sale Creek’s McEwen Gymnasium with a 3-1 victory over CSAS.
It was the 10th straight tournament championship for the Lady Panthers.
Sale Creek breezed to wins in the first two sets by scores of 25-14 and 25-19. The Lady Patriots finally got their act together long enough to win the third set by a thrilling 26-24 final. CSAS had the early lead in the fourth set, but couldn’t maintain it as Sale Creek rallied for the 25-22 win and the tournament championship.
Sale Creek will host the Region tournament on Tuesday and will face Community in the first match at 4 p.m. CSAS then battles Eagleville in the second semifinal around 5:30 with the winners to meet afterward for the region championship.
Sale Creek coach Erin Briner, who is in the first trimester of her first pregnancy, got sick during the final set and spent the rest of the match in the Sale Creek dressing room. She still wasn't feeling her best when she returned to the court, but winning another district tournament title certainly helped.
“I’ve been weak all day and I got really hot after that third set. That was a bad combination,” she said while relaxing on the Sale Creek bench during the awards presentation.
“We need to be more consistent, but we really competed tonight. I told them after the third set that we needed to eliminate our errors and to not get rattled. We had a good match with CSAS earlier this season, so we knew it would be close.
“We came out up at the start and they didn’t, but we got a little complacent. They picked up their game and we didn’t, but that was a serious reality check for us. We know that CSAS is a dangerous team with lots of seniors. We were finally able to put it all together at the end when it counted most. But I fully expect us to see them again here Tuesday night in the region finals,” Briner nodded with a smile.
CSAS coach Brandon Lowry had mixed emotions about Tuesday’s last match, but overall, he was pleased with the way his girls bounced back after such a shaky start.
“It’s been a crazy season as our gym has been redone, so we didn’t have a home match for the first six weeks. We’ve played a lot there in the last two weeks, but we’ve only had one practice in that time,” he began.
“We’ve had a mental block about Sale Creek for a long time, but it’s over now as we won a set here tonight for the first time ever. Now we know it’s possible.
“Overall, I’m pleased, but I don’t think we played our best match and we left a lot on the court. And there were times when we didn’t execute as well as we needed to, but I just hope we get to play them again,” Lowry added.
Sale Creek improved to 20-16 overall with Tuesday’s two wins, which also included a 3-0 victory over Whitwell in the first semifinal. CSAS, which swept Marion County in the other semifinal, falls to 27-8 after the loss to the Lady Panthers.
Allison Smith, a spunky 16-year-old junior, was voted the tournament MVP after collecting 15 digs and an ace. Her biggest role may have been keeping her teammates focused at the end of the championship match when the outcome could have easily gone either way.
“This is something we’ve all been working for all season, but we all came together when it counted,” she expressed.
“We made a lot of mistakes in that third set when they came back and won, but I wasn’t worried. I knew we had the talent to win the match and it was just a matter of us doing what we’re capable of doing,” she added.
The first two sets were over in a hurry after Sale Creek dominated from start to finish.
The final two sets were a different story with two teams battling for all they were worth.
CSAS got five straight service points from Chloe Jones to turn a 4-3 deficit into an 8-4 lead.
Four straight service points by Smith allowed the Lady Panthers to regain the lead at 12-10.
A kill from Sale Creek’s Lillie Morgan knotted the score at 24 before Gianna Fugh recorded back-to-back kills to extend the match to a fourth set.
The Lady Patriots got a pair of aces from Cydney Kapperman as they bolted to a quick 4-0 lead and the difference was 10-6 before Sale Creek called a timeout.
Five straight points from Sarah Gibson allowed the Lady Panthers to knot the score at 12-12 before CSAS regained the lead after another kill from Fugh.
A kill from Sale Creek’s Gabi Lacheney knotted the score for the last time at 18-all. Back-to-back kills from Kayla Phillips and Morgan put the Lady Panthers up 22-19, leading to the final timeout by the Lady Patriots.
A kill from Morgan kept Sale Creek ahead at 23-21 before another kill from Fugh got her team within a point at 23-22. Two straight hitting errors then gave the match and the title to the Lady Panthers.
Morgan had 13 kills and 10 digs to lead Sale Creek while Phillips and Gibson were next with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Kacie Billingsley had 24 assists and 10 digs while Smith had 15 digs and Ruthie Parks 13.
Fugh was credited with 13 kills to lead the Lady Patriots while Jamisen Mobley had 35 assists. Jones finished with 45 digs while Kapperman had four aces to go with her 13 digs. Elianna Sawyer had 13 kills and three blocks.
SEMIFINAL SCORES had Sale Creek winning by 25-8, 25-15 and 25-21 over Whitwell and CSAS defeating Marion County by scores of 25-15, 25-15 and 25-13.
Chelsea Chavis – 13 digs
Gianna Fugh – 13 kills, 3 blocks
Chloe Jones – 45 digs, 2 aces
Cydney Kapperman – 4 aces, 13 digs
Mattie Keur – 6 digs
Lexie Meyners – 6 kills
Jamisen Mobley – 35 assists
Elianna Sawyer – 13 kills, 3 blocks
Christina Smith – 3 kills.
SALE CREEK STATS:
Allison Smith – 15 digs, 1 ace
Sarah Gibson – 11 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig
Katie McNabb – 1 kill, 1 block
Lillie Morgan – 13 kills, 10 digs
Ruthie Parks – 13 digs, 1 ace
Kacie Billingsley – 24 assists, 3 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, 10 digs
Shopia Dozier – 17 assists, 1 ace, 2 digs
Kayla Phillips – 12 kills, 2 digs
Gabi Lacheney – 8 kills, 3 digs
Ava Higgins – 2 kills.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Jessie Rankin (Whitwell); Alli Pritchett (Marion Co.); Gianna Fugh, Ellianna Sawyer (CSAS); Kayla Phillips, Lillie Morgan and MVP Allison Smith (Sale Creek).
ALL-DISTRICT TEAM: Allison Smith, Lillie Morgan, Gabi Lacheney, Sarah Gibson (Sale Creek); Jamisen Mobley, Chloe Jones, Ellianna Sawyer (CSAS); Chloe Pitts, Macey Cardin (Marion Co); Hadee Hedrick, Courtney Zensen (Whitwell); Jordan Elledge (South Pittsburg); Rylee Morton (Lookout Valley); Keely Gribble (Richard Hardy).
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)