The Baylor Lady Red Raider volleyball team never had a chance to feel sorry for themselves.
They just finished a really tough week with three straight losses, including a three-set sweep at home on Saturday against arch-rival GPS, but they came back strong on Monday evening at Chattanooga Christian’s Bosworth Gymnasium.
While most teams are past the midway point of their season as they work to get ready for post-season tournaments, Baylor is just now hitting its stride as Monday’s match was only the eighth time they’ve face live competition.
The Lady Red Raiders won by scores of 26-24, 25-21 and 25-23, but those don’t come anywhere close to describing how close they were and how competitive each point was.
Perhaps the difference in the match was overall experience and that’s where Baylor never panicked when they were behind and were able to score big points at the most critical times.
Coach Sarah Lail certainly enjoyed watching her girls compete in a tough environment.
“That was a big win for us on the road. We had to take care of business and we have to win these region matches if we have any chance of getting back to Murfreesboro for the state tournament,” Lail began.
“We had to come back in a tough situation at the start, but you have to control the momentum. Volleyball is a sport where it can change really fast.
“We’re just now beginning to hit our stride, but I’m excited about our opportunities. I was proud of how we finished today, but we just try to focus on the next point and not worry about anything else.
“I’m really proud of Tess Margio. She’s really quiet most of the time, but she’s really stepping into the role of a big-time hitter. She basically took over at the end of the first set and that may have been the difference in the match,” Lail added.
Baylor had the early lead in that first set before a hitting error allowed CCS to knot the score for the first time at 9-9. A kill from Avery Ray gave the Lady Chargers their first lead at 10-9. With A.J. Johnson, Kayla Youell and Ray playing prominent roles up front, the home team slowly built a lead to its biggest difference of 20-14 before Lail called a timeout.
It was an inspiring pep talk to be sure and there was some really spicy mustard on some of her words, but she got her message across loud and clear and the Baylor girls responded in a positive fashion.
With Elaine Redman knocking down seven straight service points, Baylor came back with Margio’s kill giving the lead back to the visitors at 23-22.
Johnson had back-to-back kills to put CCS back on top before Margio ended the suspense with three straight kills.
Baylor grabbed the early lead in the second set and never trailed. The Lady Chargers got even at 17 on a Baylor hitting error and the score was tied again at 18 and 20.
Sierra Herndon’s kill gave Baylor a little breathing room at 23-21 before a CCS hitting error put Baylor at set point. Redman’s kill clinched the win a minute later.
The Lady Chargers were down at this point, but certainly not out, as they played with renewed enthusiasm and energy in the third set.
Four straight service points from Emily Day allowed CCS to gain the early advantage at 5-1 and the difference was 10-6 before Lail called a timeout.
Back-to-back kills from Margio knotted the score at 20-20 before an ace from Redman gave Baylor its first lead since the first point of the set.
Youell had a block and Johnson another kill for a 22-21 CCS lead, but Baylor scored three of the next four points on kills by Holland Moss, Elli Kinney and Herndon and won the match when Chattanooga Christian’s last hit sailed wide.
CCS coach Brittney Berube hit the door as soon as the match ended to head home to put her two young children to bed, but she made time for post-match comment by phone a little later.
“That was some great volleyball played on both sides tonight,” she began.
“We had a tough loss at Knoxville Catholic on Monday and I was hoping we’d bounce back better, but Baylor is such a strong team. I just wish we could have finished better. We made a lot of mental errors that are fixable.
“We’ve made some great strides this fall, but when the match got close at the end, we played not to lose. That comes with experience, but I’m so proud of our effort today. We gave everything we had,” Berube added.
Margio finished with 13 kills and two blocks while Redman added 20 assists, five kills, four digs, one block and an ace. Emma Gray contributed with 16 digs.
Johnson had 16 kills, two blocks, four digs and an assist to lead CCS while Emily Day had 30 assists and nine digs. Lauren Kay and Lauren Day finished with 15 and 10 digs, respectively.
Both teams return to action on Thursday with CCS scheduled to play at East Hamilton while Baylor will travel to Boyd-Buchanan.
The Lady Chargers are now 11-6 following Tuesday’s defeat.
Emma Gray – 2 assists, 16 digs
Lilly Stewart – 6 digs
Tess Margio – 13 kills, 2 blocks
Libby May – 8 assists, 6 digs
Elli Kinney – 3 kills, 10 digs, 1 ace
Nadia Sixto – 1 kill, 1 block
Holland Moss – 4 kills, 1 block, 1 dig
Elaine Redman – 20 assists, 5 kills, 4 digs, 1 block, 1 ace
Sierra Herndon – 7 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN STATS:
Annie Johnston – 3 digs
Lauren Day – 10 digs
Lauren Kay – 15 digs
Hannah Blevins – 1 dig
A.J. Johnson – 16 kills, 2 blocks, 4 digs, 1 assist
Emily Day – 4 kills, 9 digs, 30 assists
Kayla Youell – 5 kills, 1 block, 5 digs
Avery Ray – 7 kills, 1 block, 1 ace
Amelia Bustamante – 3 kills
Kennedy Barber – 2 kills.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)