After a trio of see-saw games, Bradley Central turned it up a notch to rally past arch-rival Cleveland in volleyball action Thursday night at Cleveland High School.
“That’s the way we’ve played in the camps and the preseason,” declared Bearette head coach Christie McElhaney of the final two games of the 21-25, 26-24, 20-25, 25-13, 15-7 victory.
“We started out slow and had a ton of hitting errors in the first three games, then all of a sudden we turned on the switch,” she added. “Games four and five are what I’m used to seeing out of my girls.”
“It’s been a while since we’ve beaten them (Cleveland), so to do that on their own floor is a big step for us,” the coach assessed. “This along with the good win over McMinn earlier in the week, has gotten us off to a good start on the season.”
The Bearettes will now host the 7th annual Bradley Bash with 10 teams gathering for action tonight and tomorrow at Jim Smiddy Arena. The field includes Tennessee High (Bristol), Sullivan East, Boyd Buchanan, Cleveland, Rhea County, Chattanooga Central, CCS, Silverdale and McMinn Central. Play will begin at 4:30 this afternoon and run all day Saturday with the finals slated to start around 7 p.m.
The Lady Raiders, now 0-2 with a 3-6 game count, started Thursday’s match by scoring six of the first eight points, but Bradley bounced back to even the match at 8-8 before a 4-1 run gave the Black-and-Gold their first lead of the night.
The two teams traded points for a couple of minutes before the Lady Raiders rallied from a three-point deficit to close out the first game with a 9-2 run for a four-point win.
Despite the score being tied five times in the second game, Bradley scored the first point and led by as much as six points before relinquishing the lead when the hosts went on a 10-4 run capped by a Jessica Murray ace for a 22-20 advantage.
The Bearettes responded by scoring the next four points with Breanna Isham powering an ace to put the contest at game point. However, Cleveland wouldn’t go easy, fighting back to tie the score before a block by Bradley senior Kayla Rymer and a kill from 6-foot-2 sophomore Brooke Copeland evened the match at a game apiece.
With a half dozen lead changes and 10 ties, the third game swung the momentum back to the home side. Kayla Gash blasted four kills and a dink during a 6-1 run that put the Lady Raiders up 2-1 in the game count.
With their backs against the wall and down 2-1 early in the fourth game, the light switch turned on as Copeland served up nine straight winners and Bradley never trailed again.
Stretching the led to double digits, the Bearettes were never really threatened again as they capped the fourth game with a 6-1 run, including a pair of Kayla Arp aces, to even the match at 2-2.
Choosing to stay on the end of the court they had already claimed victory on, Bradley continued their hot hand with senior Emily Wilson serving up nine straight winners to open the rubber game of the match, aided by a pair of slams from classmate Monica Hammond.
After quickly getting the serve back, junior Kaitlyn Hickman took the lead to 13-1 with three straight service winners.
The Lady Raiders were able to put on a late charge with a 6-1 run to make the score respectable before Copeland sealed the victory with her 11th monster slam of the evening.
“We had several girls come up with some big plays when we needed them,” praised Coach McElhaney. “We finally started playing the defense we need to be playing.”
For the Bearettes, Copeland collected 14 digs to go along with her 11 kills, while Rymer had 24 digs and four aces. Arp garnered 21 digs, 16 assists, a half dozen aces and six kills.
Senior Emily Wilson also dug out 24 shots and had a pair of aces for the victors, while Hammond had seven kill shots and a half dozen digs. Sophomore Rebecca Reuter helped out with four kills, three digs and a pair of blocks.
Cleveland got 25 assists, 20 digs, nine kills and 2.5 blocks from Jessica Davenport, plus 10 kills and eight blocks from Gash.
Zanna Thompson collected 20 receptions and 19 digs, with Sydnie Anderson garnered 16 receptions, 18 digs and a half dozen kills. Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad had 16 receptions, 14 digs and eight downed slams. Marissa Langford added 10 kill shots, nine receptions and a half dozen digs.
“On a positive note, we played much better as a team than we did against Walker Valley (a 4-1 loss),” assessed Lady Raider coach Patricia Flowers. “Our line up was stronger and our communication improved as well.”
“Serving and serve receive hurt us,” she continued. “Those two things are what we work on the most in practice so to come out here and make as many mistakes as we did in those two areas is unacceptable at this level.”
“Bradley is good this year. They have tall girls who can hit the ball down and passers who are scrappy,” Flowers proclaimed. “We have to get smarter to compete against the teams in our conference or we’re going to fall short of a victory.”
“Our hitters knocked the fire out of the ball and played great defense (Anderson, Gash, Muhammad, Langford),” the coach commented. “Cassie Hale and Jessica Murray came off the bench in a time of need and really stepped it up as well.”
Cleveland played without Anderson for the final game and a half as she injured her knee.