Everyone always wants to talk about the great rivalry between Baylor and McCallie, but for whatever reason, they forget that Baylor and GPS have a pretty healthy rivalry as well. They may be best friends, sisters or next door neighbors on most days, but it’s a battle to see who’s the best when it comes to athletic competition.
Such was the case at GPS Tuesday night where these two proud programs met for the second time on the volleyball court this season. Baylor had won the earlier meeting at Baylor and had already clinched first place in the region, but Tuesday’s match was one for the ages.
The bleachers were packed with blue on one end and red on the other. And there were at least four or five people deep against the wall on both end zones. The noise level was almost deafening at times, but the spirit level was off the chart as fans from both schools cheered their hearts out from start to finish.
The Bruisers won the first set 25-18 for the early lead, but Baylor came back to win the next three by scores of 25-17, 25-20 and 25-18.
Set scores might not have been close as you might expect, but the level of competition was amazing as young ladies from both teams played their absolute hardest.
Baylor coach Sarah Lail has gotten used to an environment like this. She’s just happy that her girls were able to come back and win after being down early.
“What a phenomenal environment this was as this was something they will remember the rest of their lives,” Lail said after her team improved to 20-9 for the season.
“GPS came out on fire in the first set and basically woke us up, but I’m really proud of the way we responded. We weren’t about to roll over after that first set, but we just weren’t communicating and executing our game plan.
“Sydney Sharpe did a great job distributing the ball and keeping their blockers guessing, but we just had to stay on them. Even in the fourth set with us leading, I told them that we had to play like we had to win that set. But we’re the region champions and I'm always happy about that, but we just have to keep working as we prepare for the post-season,” Lail added.
GPS is probably the most improved team in Hamilton County. The Bruisers are now 14-14 for the season, but they came ready to play. GPS has five seniors who were playing their final match at home and there are five freshmen who are seeing a lot of playing time, so the future looks good for them.
Coach Alfie Dodd, who was the Bruiser leader a few years back before stepping away for a bit, is back and quickly turning the Bruisers into a team to be reckoned with. All of this takes time, but he’s quick to admit that his girls are on the right track to being championship contenders again.
“These girls have come so far since the first day, but we’re trying to get this rivalry back to the way it used to be,” he began.
“This was a great match between two pretty good teams. We knew we’d have our hands full, but what a great environment. We played our game at the start as defense is our strength, but we just didn’t correct the mistakes we were making and that was the difference in the match.
“We let them go on scoring runs and that hurt, but these girls gave their best effort and left everything on the court. I didn’t necessarily like the final results, but I loved the effort as we played our hearts out,” he added.
A kill from Mia Kinney and five straight service points from Sydney Sharpe put Baylor up 6-0 in the opening set, leading to the first timeout for GPS.
A kill from Brooklynn Smith gave the Bruisers their first point before seven straight service points from Ellie Holland put GPS ahead 8-6.
Smith had three straight kills at the start of that run and she followed with three more as the lead swelled to 11-7. Baylor got within two points twice the rest of the way, but never regained the lead as the Bruisers took the first set.
Baylor was a different team the rest of the way.
A 6-1 lead in the second set stretched to 13-3 and the Bruisers never had the lead. Two straight kills from Smith and back-to-back aces from Sophia Jenkins kept GPS within striking distance, but a service error shortly afterward allowed Baylor to win the second set.
The Bruisers scored four of the first five points of the third set and led until an ace from Baylor’s Jesse Blevins knotted the score at 8-8. Back-to-back blocks by Bailey Shahan put the Lady Red Raiders up 10-8 before GPS regained the advantage for the last time at 12-11 on a kill from Catie Nicola.
A kill from Kaylee Snyder and an ace from Sharpe put Baylor ahead 15-13 and it never got much closer as the Lady Raiders took a 2-1 lead on a kill from Sharpe.
The Bruisers scored the first four points of the fourth set before Baylor regained the upper hand, a kill from Maggie Hansen putting the visitors up 6-5 in the middle of five straight service points from Franny Brooksbank put Baylor ahead for the last time at 7-5.
GPS tied it for the last time at 8-8 before a kill from Sharpe made it 9-8. Two kills from Kinney and one from Emma Mulvaney put Baylor ahead 16-10.
A block by Smith got the Bruisers within 19-16 but Baylor scored six of the final eight points to win the match.
Kinney and Mulvaney both had 15 kills for Baylor while Brooksbank had 19 digs and Sharpe 40 assists.
Smith had 20 kills to lead GPS while Cat Nygaard had 19 digs and Jenkins 33 assists.
Baylor will host the Home-schooled Patriots on Senior Night Monday while GPS travels to Knoxville Catholic on Tuesday.
Franny Brooksbank – 2 aces, 19 digs, 2 assists
Addie Margio – 1 assis
Maggie Hansen – 12 kills, 4 digs, 1 block
Bailey Shahan – 1 kill, 1 ace, 1 dig, 4 blocks
Sydney Sharpe – 3 kills, 40 assists, 3 aces, 10 digs, 2 blocks
Emma Mulvaney – 15 kills, 4 digs, 2 blocks
Jesse Blevins – 1 assist, 1 ace, 9 digs
Mia Kinney – 15 kills, 3 aces, 3 digs, 1 block
Kaylee Snyder – 2 aces, 9 digs.
Alex Blye – 3 kills
Ellie Holland – 16 digs
Sophia Jenkins – 1 kill, 33 assists, 2 aces
Emma Larosa – 6 digs, 1 ace
Emma Leinberger – 3 digs
Cadence Nichols – 10 kills, 2 blocks
Catie Nicola – 6 kills
Cat Nygaard – 19 digs, 1 ace
Brooklynn Smith – 20 kills, 2 blocks.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)