Being honored before playing in her final home match, Cleveland High senior Jessica Murray went out in style Tuesday evening, leading her Lady Raiders to a shocking sweep upset of District 5-AAA leader Bradley Central.
“For me this was the greatest way to end my final home match,” stated the outside hitter who after being crowned with a tiara and having teammates bow down to her before the match, went out and served up 17 winners, including match point for the 25-20, 25-21, 26-24 sweep for just the second district loss by the Bearettes this season.
“She had a great night,” proclaimed an exuberant Cleveland coach Patricia Flowers. “She didn’t have any service errors. This is a special night for us and her. She finished up with a great all-around performance.”
The victory improves the Lady Raiders to 5-4 in district play as the postseason quickly approaches. “We have a big match at Walker Valley Thursday and then we go to Ooltewah Tuesday for another important match,” Flowers related. “It’s hard to believe the district tournament is just two weeks away.”
With the loss, Bradley slips to 22-9 on the season and 7-2 in 5-AAA matches. The Bearettes travel to Soddy-Daisy Thursday and play host to Rhea County Tuesday.
Cleveland scored the first two points Tuesday evening, including an ace by libero Eva Wilhelm. After Bradley bounced back with three straight points on kills by “Twin Towers” Brooke Copeland and Rebecca Reuter, plus an ace by Copeland, the Lady Raiders went on a 9-3 run to break the game open.
The Bearettes came clawing back to close the gap to just four points at 23-19, before the hosts closed out the first game by taking two of the final three points.
Bradley came roaring out to score eight of the first 10 points of Game 2 and kept its advantage at five and six points until the scoreboard read 18-13.
That’s when Cleveland got on a roll. After a 5-1 spurt closed the gap to just a single point, Bradley edged back up by three points before the Lady Raiders retook the serve and handed the ball to Murray, who served out the final half dozen points including a pair of aces, the last of which came on game point.
The third game was a repeat of the second with the Bearettes breaking open a 3-3 tie with an 8-1 run behind the serving of senior Kayla Arp. The visitors were still up by a half dozen a few moments later at 17-11, before once again the hosts shifted the momentum.
An 8-2 Lady Raider run evened the score as the game was tied four times down the stretch. With the hosts regaining the serve thanks to Bradley’s 13th service error of the evening, Murray served up the final winner that teammate Cassie Hale finished off with her 16th kill of the night.
“I was nervous on that final serve but it felt good,” declared Murray. “We played really hard tonight. This has been a great year. Everybody is really close and are good friends.”
Murray added a dozen digs, three kills and a trio of aces to her effort, while Hale had eight digs to go with her slams.
Freshman setter Kellee Geren dished out 30 assists, served up 13 winners and had 11 digs in the victory, while Wilhelm posted an impressive 29 digs and 24 service receptions.
Marissa Langford helped out with a dozen kills and a block, while Kayla Lee dug out 12 shots and KK Clements collected a half dozen receptions and a trio of digs.
“I’m proud of the way our girls played tonight,” proclaimed Flowers. “The girls are starting to gel and pull together to do the things we’ve been trying to get them to do.”
“Cleveland played with a lot of heart and emotion and obviously they wanted it more than we did,” commented Bradley head coach Christie McElhaney. “We were flat. We had too many service errors and we were too inconsistent with our play.”
Arp paced the Bearette night with 24 assists, 10 service points, a half dozen digs, five kills and a trio of aces. Copeland collected 15 kills, 13 digs and 30 service receptions, plus 3.5 blocks.
Libero Rachael Garrett finished with 11 digs and 11 receptions, while Chanler Grady also dug out 11 shots. Reuter tallied 10 kills, eight digs, five receptions and a trio of blocks on the night. Senior Brianna Howard helped out with eight digs and a pair of kills.