By JOE CANNON
Drawing a 12-time state champion to face in the opening round the TSSAA State Volleyball Championship isn’t necessarily a bad thing according to Cleveland High coach Trish Flowers.“Last year …
Drawing a 12-time state champion to face in the opening round the TSSAA State Volleyball Championship isn’t necessarily a bad thing according to Cleveland High coach Trish Flowers.
“Last year there was no doubt there was a huge gap between Brentwood and the rest of the field. That was obvious by the way they beat Farragut in the championship match (a 3-0 sweep with the final set being 25-14).
“I don’t think it’s that way this year. Any team is beatable. Brentwood has lost to Baylor, Knox Webb (twice) and Hardin Valley, plus some out-of-state teams this season.
“Brentwood is still a very strong contender, and as the old saying goes ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best,” the veteran coach added team that has won the last four state crowns.
Cleveland (33-15) and Brentwood (32-6) will play at noon (Eastern time) Tuesday in the second of eight matches scheduled at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.
Both teams will play twice that day, facing either Houston or Hardin Valley in a winner’s bracket match at 4:30 or an elimination match at 7:30.
Houston (23-14) and Hardin Valley (37-7) will tip the day off at 10:30 that morning before the Lady Raiders and Lady Bruins take the court.
The other opening round matches will follow with Ravenwood (38-5) and Collierville (40-8) squaring off at 1:30, while Siegel (34-9) and Tennessee High (27-10) will battle at 3.
The winners and losers of those two matches will also tangle in the opening day action.
The action will shift to the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University for Wednesday’s play and Thursday’s championship.
“It’s going to be a more competitive state across the board this year,” proclaimed Coach Flowers. “I feel good about our draw.
“I think Siegel is probably the team to beat and we are on the opposite end of the bracket from them. They and Hardin Valley are predicted to be in the finals, but I think any of the teams could get hot and make a strong run. ”
The Lady Raiders have built a special bond with the Siegel program, going to an Ole Miss summer camp as well as playing in a weekend tournament there this season.
“Me and the Siegel coach have become good friends. Our players like each other and doing the camp together has drawn us close,” related Coach Flowers.
“The school (CHS) is doing a send off for us at 12:45 Monday and then we’re going to head over, get some lunch along the way, check into our motel, go practice at Siegel that evening and have a team dinner afterwards.”
Making the school’s first trip to a TSSAA State Volleyball Championship last fall, Cleveland dropped their opening match to Siegel, defeated Ravenwood and lost to eventual state runner-up Farragut to tie for fifth place with Houston.
“A Top 6 finish on our first time there was great, but to get into the top four or even make the title match this time would be awesome,” stated Coach Flowers.
After losing a half dozen key players off last year’s state tournament squad, Cleveland took some time to gel, going 10-7 in August.
Along with going 8-0 in District 5-AAA regular season play, the Lady Raiders won the Silver Bracket Championship at the Siegel Tournament.
Despite dropping three of four matches to state-bound Baylor and East Hamilton, as well as GPS, in the final week of the regular season, Cleveland bounced back to earn a spot in the Gold Bracket title match at the Mid-State Classic in Franklin to cap September.
In the postseason, the Lady Raiders dominated the district and region events to earn repeat championships and then swept Blackman in the TSSAA Sectional Thursday evening.
“We’ve been on a good run here at the end of the season, which is what you want this time of year,” commented Coach Flowers.
The Lady Raider repeat run to the state has once again been spearheaded by all-stater and two-time District and Region Player of the Year Emma Flowers.
The 6-foot-2 power hitter has shown her all-around skills this season with 452 digs, 324 service receptions, 152 assists, 67 aces and 16.5 blocks to go with her 761 kills to this point.
“Emma is having another great season and to be able to share this with her and to go to the state tournament in her final two years has been something special,” remarked her mother and coach.
The only other returning starter from the 2016 squad, setter Anna Renshaw has also provided strong leadership for the younger Cleveland players, who have grown up quickly this season.
The junior has dished out 844 assists, downed 228 kills, had 293 digs and a team-leading 73 aces, plus a dozen blocks and 68 service receptions.
Senior Hannah Longley stepped into the libero position this season and responded with 768 receptions, 601 digs, plus she served up 44 aces.
Junior Nicole Glasner has also blossomed with 157 kills, 101 digs, 43 aces and 19.5 blocks, while sophomore Lily Oliver leads the team in blocks with 25, plus drilled 113 slams and dug out 41 shots.
Sophia Lakatosh is having a strong senior season with 120 digs, 97 kills, 73 assists, 70 aces and 11 blocks.
Freshman Joy Douglass has come on strong late in the season and contributed 196 service receptions, 49 kills, 32 aces and 12.5 blocks.
“It took a while for us to adjust to each other, but once we starting putting things together we’ve played strong,” assessed Coach Flowers. “This has been a total team effort this season.”
Making it’s sixth straight state tournament appearance, along with winning the last four, Brentwood is just one of three Williamson County teams, along with Ravenwood and D-II Brentwood Academy, making TSSAA State Championships.
“Brentwood has a strong volleyball tradition. The top players from the Nashville area seek out Brentwood to go play there,” said Flowers of the Lady Bruins who have won a dozen state titles in 23 state tournament appearances.
“All of their players play club ball in the winter instead of basketball. They are very well coached.
“They did lose some strong players from last year’s team, plus one of their returning outside hitters, a D-I commit to Purdue I think, blew out her ACL during the summer.
“They still return a Texas commit (Logan Eggleston), who played on the USA National Team, at outside hitter as well as a very strong libero,” she related.
Houston is also making it’s sixth straight appearance in the state tournament, while Siegel has played in 10 total, including the previous five.
Like the Lady Raiders, Ravenwood, which was eliminated by Cleveland last year, and Hardin Valley are making back-to-back appearances, while Tennessee High (Bristol) and Collierville are playing in their first state tournaments.
“We were in awe last year, but we shouldn’t have that problem this time around. I’m confident we’ll perform better this year since it’s not our first time,” assessed Coach Flowers.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE