“We started out strong in the first game, but then struggled with our serves in the second,” commented Bearette head coach Christie McElhaney of the teams’ split of the opening two games.
“We got behind in both of the last two games but when we were able to put the ball in play and put pressure on Walker Valley, we were able to rally and take control of the match,” she added of the 3-1 final.
After scoring 12 of the night’s first 16 points, Bradley held off a late charge from the hosts for a 25-17 win in the opener. The Lady Mustangs returned the favor in Game 2 as they never trailed in a 25-21 decision.
The Bearettes turned a three-point deficit into a five-point win in the third game by scoring 10 of the final 12 points in a 25-20 set, before rallying from an early 11-5 hole for a 25-18 tally to seal the victory.
Now 21-8 on the season and 7-1 in district play, Bradley will take the weekend off before heading across town to face archrival Cleveland High on Tuesday.
Walker Valley, which won both the freshmen and junior varsity matches, slipped to 13-20 on the year and 3-5 in 5-AAA play and will entertain Rhea County on Tuesday. The Lady Mustang freshmen are undefeated in eight matches this season while the JV squad is 8-1.
Senior Brianna Howard served up the first six points of the night, including a pair of aces, as the Bearettes quickly took control. After the advantage stretched to 18-7, the Lady Mustangs temporarily shifted the momentum with an 8-1 run to pull within three points behind the serving of seniors Eryn Walker and Autumn Sizemore.
After a timeout, Bradley was able to regain control and senior Kayla Arp started off the game’s final 6-1 rally with back-to-back aces. Power slams from 6-foot-2 junior “Twin Towers” Rebecca Reuter and Brooke Copeland closed out the opening game victory.
Although Game 2 was a seesaw match with only one service run of more than two points, Walker Valley scored the first two points to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. After the teams traded the first 10 points evenly, a 5-1 Lady Mustang streak created all the distance the hosts would need to even the match.
The Bearettes were able to pull within a pair of points twice but when senior Bristol Snider set up teammate Rachel Lawhorn for a game-ending spike, the match stood at a game apiece.
Walker Valley continued its momentum early in the third game, downing the first four points and still holding that same advantage when the scoreboard read 17-13. The visitors got on track when sophomore Chanler Grady served up seven straight winners to take the lead before back-to-back kills by Copeland finished off the five-point win.
Undaunted, the Lady Mustangs galloped out to an 11-5 advantage to start Game 4, including back-to-back aces from Sizemore to highlight a 6-0 run. Bradley was able to trim the deficit in half before Howard also had a pair of aces in a 7-0 run to give the visitors the final lead change of the night.
Copeland was able to put the match on ice with five straight service points, while Reuter had a trio of kills and a downed block in the final rally.
“I was proud of the way we battled back when we got down,” praised McElhaney. “This was a nice bounce back from a bad showing at Ooltewah (Bradley’s lone district loss last Thursday) and a rough weekend (in the Tennessee Tandem Tournament).”
“Brianna (Howard) had a great night serving,” the coach proclaimed of her senior’s 18 service points, including five aces, plus she had four receptions and three kills.
Copeland and Reuter once again dominated the net for the Bearettes. Copeland downed 28 kills, had 18 service receptions, 14 digs and a pair of blocks. Reuter slammed home 15 kills, had 16 receptions, 14 digs and 1.5 blocks.
Arp handed out 35 assists, dug out 14 shots, had seven service points, four attacks and a block. Grady also had 14 digs and eight service winners, while libero Rachael Garrett helped out with eight receptions and five digs. Sophomore Lisa Duvall collected a dozen receptions, eight digs, three kills and 1.5 blocks in the victory.
For Walker Valley, Taylor Pruett topped out with 15 digs and 20 receptions, while Snider had an ace, 13 assists, nine kills and a half dozen digs.
Abby Campbell pitched in with 13 assists, six digs and four aces, while Walker added nine receptions, a trio of digs and a pair of aces.
Sizemore downed a half dozen kills, with Christian Whittemore posting six digs, five receptions and two aces. Madison Pruett and Baylee Boen downed five kills apiece for the hosts, while Lawhorn had four.
“We played much better than we did (at Ooltewah) Tuesday,” assessed Lady Mustang coach Judy Pruett. “We have to put a few more shots away. We played a good, solid match. I think we can play with anybody in the district when we’re on.”
In the JV match, the Lady Mustangs claimed a pair of 25-22 wins with Ashlyn Flock handing out 19 assists, while Nikki Prugh pitched in with eight kills, four digs and four receptions. Alex Rominger garnered a pair of aces and a dozen digs.
Walker Valley’s freshmen cruised to a 25-6, 25-13 victory behind Flock’s 10 digs and eight assist performance. Madison Pruett tallied 11 digs and three kills, while Mikayla Lumpkin had three aces, four kills and a trio of digs.
Sara Wilson dug out eight shots and had three receptions, while Alexan Crittenden handed out five assists, had four digs and three kills. Madison Russo finished with four kills and a pair of digs.