Pull quote:"I'm very proud of my team. I'm leaving here ... very confident that we had what it takes to get to state, but it just didn't happen tonight."— Cleveland coach Trish FlowersMURFREESBORO …
"I'm very proud of my team. I'm leaving here ... very confident that we had what it takes to get to state, but it just didn't happen tonight."
— Cleveland coach Trish Flowers
MURFREESBORO — Cleveland's Lady Raiders did what no other postseason team has done this year, nor any TSSAA Sectional opponent has done in a long time, but it wasn't enough as their season came to a close in a hard-fought volleyball battle in Murfreesboro Thursday evening.
"We're leaving this gym tonight with a good feeling, knowing that we gave our best effort and could have easily been the team going to state," declared Lady Raider head coach Trish Flowers after the tooth-and-nail tangle with perennial power Siegel.
"Coach (Shawn) Robinson said we are the hardest team he has ever faced in substate in his tenure at Siegel. They have always won in three (sets)."
That's high praise, considering the Stars have a dozen Sectional victories in the last 15 years.
Cleveland (25-12) showed no fear starting the match with a 25-23 victory in an opening set that included nine lead changes and a dozen ties. It is the only set the Region 4 champs have lost this postseason.
After taking the punch in the mouth, Siegel (27-14) battled back to take the next three tight tangles — 25-21, 25-20, 25-21 — to earn their sixth straight Class AAA state volleyball tournament berth.
The Stars will be joined at next week's state event by Cookeville (30-12), a straight-set winner over Stewarts Creek Thursday, Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett (35-2), Heritage (29-5), Station Camp (40-6), Brentwood (40-3), Collierville (33-7) and Houston (28-10).
With Cleveland scoring the first point in all four sets Thursday, the two teams who have become good friends in the last few years were only separated by more than five points on 15 of 185 serves the entire night.
After the squads evenly swapped the opening 20 points, the Lady Raiders found themselves down 13-11 before senior libero Lydia Martin stepped behind the line to serve up five straight winners for a 17-13 edge.
The hosts battled back to go up 21-20, but after knotted scores at 22- and 23-all, Cleveland sophomore Joy Douglass got the serve back with a kill before a long slam attempt by the Stars sealed the win for the visitors.
The teams once again started even in Set 2, equally dividing the opening dozen points before Siegel took control with an 8-1 run.
The Lady Raider fought back to trim the deficit to three points three times, before UT-Chattanooga commit Sophia Bossong downed a dink to even the match.
In the third set the score was even after 18 points were put on the scoreboard before once again the Stars became a nova with 12-4 flash for the night's largest lead.
Down 21-13, Cleveland mounted an impressive comeback with a 6-1 spurt to pull within three points before the hosts downed three of the final four points to go up 2-1 in the set count.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Raiders broke open an 8-all tie in the fourth set with a 7-2 run, and maintained a five-point edge through the following four serves.
Showing why they have dominated Region 4 play for over a decade, Siegel regained the momentum with a 10-2 spark.
Cleveland's last stand pushed the difference to 23-21 before the hosts emphatically slammed the door shut with back-to-back kills.
"I'm very proud of my team. I think we can beat Siegel," Flowers proclaimed. "I'm leaving here as a coach very confident that we had what it takes to get to state, but it just didn't happen tonight.
"We were up by five points (in the fourth set) and that was our match. I hate it (losing) for the girls, but it's been a heck of a year.
"They're going to talk about their regrets and what they let slip through their fingers, but it was a heck of a run," she added.
"Nobody thought we'd go this far after losing Emma (Flowers, a 6-foot-2 power hitter and three-time District 5 Player of the Year who now plays for Lincoln Memorial Univeristy), but we did.
"We have a special senior group (Anna Renshaw, Nicole Glaser, Madeline Dasher, Cyndey Brock and Martin) that stepped up and led us here. They went to three sectionals and two state tournaments for the first time in school history, so I think they should leave with their heads held high."
Dealing with some sickness, including missing Kate McGinnis (a key server and back row player) Cleveland battled through some uncharacteristic play.
"We've had two or three girls with migraines the last couple of days," the coach assessed. "Our setting was off some tonight. We had 16 ball-handling errors (double hits), which we don't normally do.
"When you're at practice and already talking about feeling off, you've got to talk yourself out of that kind of stuff and dig in.
"I'm very proud of Nicole Glaser (15 service points with four aces, 11 kills, nine serve returns, four digs, 1.5 blocks, 86 IPE). She was really feeling it.
"I felt really bad for her, because she and her setter had trouble getting in rhythm or she would have had several more kills. The sets were either to low or just off," Flowers stated.
"We also had a couple that struggled with their serving and Emma Miles came in and gave us some good serves (10 service points with two aces) in the last two sets.
Renshaw, the District 5 Player of the Year, capped her Lady Raider career with 24 assists, 21 digs, 17 service winners with a pair of aces, and seven kills for a 92 IPE.
Douglass led the way with 32 service receptions, 18 digs and 14 kills, also collecting a 92 performance rating.
Martin also put 32 Siegel serves in play, plus dug out 25 shots, served up 20 winners and was one of five Lady Raiders with a 100 IPE.
The other perfect ratings went to junior Lily Oliver (5.5 blocks, five kills, two digs), Elliot Brock (15 service receptions, eight digs, two kills), Bri Daniel (13 service points with an ace, 13 assists and six digs) and Cyndey Brock (three kills and a dig).
Siegel's brightest Stars included Julia Wheeler (26 kills, 16 digs), Bossong (58 assists, three kills), Grace Reidmiller (14 kills) and Julia Poarch (45 digs).
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