Although “revenge is a dish best served cold,” things sure heated up Monday night as Cleveland High did a little payback in the opening round of the District 5-AAA Volleyball Tournament at Jim Smiddy Arena.
In what one expects from county rivals battling with their season on the line, the fourth-seeded Lady Raiders exacted some revenge on Walker Valley Monday night.
“They (Walker Valley) knocked us out last year, marking the first time in 10 years we didn’t make the district championship match,” related coach Patricia Flowers after her Lady Raiders won an exciting five-set match. “We got down 2-1 and my heart was pounding and I was sweating, but we came fighting back. I’m proud of all my girls and the way they didn’t give up.”
The 25-15, 28-30, 18-25, 25-22, 15-6 victory advances Cleveland (24-21) to this evening’s semifinals where it will take on top-seeded Ooltewah (30-11) at 5. Walker Valley, which was the event’s fifth seed, closes its season with a 15-23 record.
Second-seeded Bradley Central (28-12) will tangle with 2011 TSSAA state tournament participant Soddy-Daisy (32-18), the No. 3 seed, in the evening’s other semifinal match.
Tonight’s winners will not only advance to the district championship match Wednesday at 6 p.m., they will also play in the Region 3-AAA Tournament, which will begin on Monday at the home of the two district winners.
After the two teams evenly swapped the first half dozen points, the Lady Raiders broke away with a 10-1 run behind the serving of freshman Kellee Geren and junior KK Clements, who had four and five straight service winners respectively.
Building their advantage to double digits at 18-8 and 19-9, Cleveland’s largest lead came when junior Sabra Martin served up an ace for an 11-point edge to set up match point.
After dropping the opener by a 10-point deficit, Walker Valley came out determined and scored the first five points of Game 2, including an ace by senior Eyrn Walker and a pair of kills from classmate Baylee Boen.
The Lady Raiders fought back to cut the difference to a single point twice before using a 4-0 spurt to take the lead at 17-16, thanks to a dink by power hitter Marissa Langford.
Cleveland inched ahead 20-18 before the Lady Mustangs came stampeding back with five straight points off the serve of senior Taylor Pruett.
After a trade of serves, Walker Valley was just a point from victory, but the Lady Raiders weren’t ready to give in and after gaining the serve got back-to-back slams from Langford to even the score at 24-each.
The lead changed hands three times and was tied four more times before the Lady Mustangs took advantage of a Cleveland service error and then got an ace from Alex Rominger to even the match at a game apiece.
The two teams traded the first 10 points of the third set before the Lady Raiders put together three straight points, including a Cassie Hale kill and a dink from senior Jessica Murray.
After Walker Valley pulled back within a point, Cleveland went back up by four on an Aneisha Barber block. After the teams traded two more serves, the Lady Mustangs hit a full gallop to score the next five points, including a pair of aces from senior Autumn Sizemore.
Rachel Lawhorn, Bristol Snider and Boen then took control of the net with a combined seven kills and a downed block as Walker Valley closed out the game on a 16-5 run, capped by a Sizemore slam on game point.
With their backs against the wall, Cleveland came out fighting in Game 4, scoring the first five points on a pair of kills by Langford, as well as one each from Allison Botts and Barber.
The Fillies from the north end of the county answered with four straight points of their own, but another 3-0 Lady Raider spurt kept them at bay. Cleveland led by as many as seven points twice, including game-point at 24-18, but it took five more tries to close out the win and even the match at 2-all.
In the tie-breaker, the teams once again started off even, trading the first half dozen points, but then Cleveland caught fire with a 7-1 streak that included kills from Hale and Murray, a block by Botts, plus another ace from Martin.
The teams traded the next three points but that would be the last score of the season for Walker Valley as the Lady Raiders downed the final five points, including a pair of kills from Langford, a slam by Barber and a Kayla Lee ace to cap the victory.
“You don’t ever count a win over Walker Valley until the final point is on the board,” declared coach Flowers. “We played well this past weekend in Nashville and beat some good teams. We carried that over to tonight.”
Langford finished the match with 27 kills, plus 10 digs, while Geren handed out 44 assists, dug out 14 shots and even blocked a pair.
Hale collected 14 kills, while Murray helped out with 15 digs to go with her four attack winners.
Barber tallied seven digs, a half dozen kills and a block, with Botts blocking two, digging out five and slamming home three winners.
Lee and Clements dug out 11 and 10 shots respectively in the victory.
Cleveland once again played without 5-foot-10 junior leaper Qeturwah Abdullah-Muhammad, who is still suffering shoulder problems. “She was dressed and ready to go if we needed her, but she was in constant pain,” Flowers explained.
For Walker Valley, Snider dished out 22 assists, slammed home 14 kills and had five digs in her final high school match.
Boen collected 18 kill shots and a dozen digs, while Abby Campbell had 14 assists and a trio of digs.
Taylor Pruett capped her prep career with 16 digs, while her freshman sister Madison had seven digs, five kills and a block.
Lawhorn finished with four kills and a pair of blocks, while Walker had eight digs in her Lady Mustang finale.
“It was a great match. I expected it to go four or five games,” proclaimed Lady Mustang coach Judy Pruett. “These girls played great. Our seniors really wanted it. I’m proud of all of them.”
“After we won the third game, we had a letdown,” she added. “We had too many errors in the fourth game and then in the fifth, we couldn’t catch a break.”