As district tournament time approaches every volleyball win becomes that much more critical. Not necessarily in terms of wins and losses, but more in terms of which team is hottest and has momentum going into the end of the regular season series.
Cleveland took a big step toward its goal of coming together at the right time with a 3-1 win over Walker Valley in “The Stable,” Thursday night.
Cleveland (17-17, 6-4 District 5-AAA) won the opener 25-20 before falling to the Lady Mustangs (14-21, 4-6) in the second game 25-18. The Lady Raiders recovered to take the final two games by scores of 26-24 and 25-22.
“We played good. The second game we had our match where we played well. We played all four games more consistently than maybe we have in the past, we just couldn’t keep the intensity at the right time and we would let up,” said Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett. “I know we had two or three pretty decent leads and we just kept letting them back in the game.”
Cleveland coach Patricia Flowers said the Lady Raiders stuck together after the loss in the second game and pulled out the win.
“I was a big win. It was a little bit scary at times. It was kind of crazy. Even in the game we lost, we couldn’t pinpoint what we were doing wrong. We just weren’t gelling. It was like we were missing too many serves,” Flowers said. “Our passing wasn’t as solid as it could have been. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t as good as it should be.”
The Lady Raiders came back from a 5-2 deficit in Game 1 and rallied to a 9-7 lead. A Cassie Hale kill broke a 10-10 tie with another Hale kill and built an 18-11 advantage with a Marissa Langford block. Five straight points put the Lady Raiders up 23-14, but the Lady Mustangs galloped right back. With six consecutive Walker Valley points in the second game, the Lady Mustangs aimed the headlights directly into the eyes of the Lady Raiders, who quickly fell behind 6-0. A kill by Rachel Lawhorn made it 10-2 and Walker Valley never looked back. Cleveland closed the gap to 14-16, but the Lady Mustangs fired off six straight points to make it 22-14. A kill by Nikki Prugh and a service point from Christian Whittemore closed out the win for Walker Valley.
“They played a good game. They have been playing well the last few games. We are still just a little short. I’m hoping that it’s going to happen for us at district time. We’ve got one more week. We just make one or two too many errors at the wrong time,” said Pruett.
The Lady Raiders put it back together in the third game coming back after being down 7-3 to eventually tie the game at 11-11. Langford made it 13-11 but an ace from Autumn Sizemore and a Lawhorn kill put the Lady Raiders up 17-15. Kellee Geren served an ace and Langford’s kill put Cleveland up 19-17. Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad made it 22-19.
The Lady Raiders held a slim 24-22 advantage before a side out and a dink kill by Sizemore tied it at 24-all. Cleveland picked up another point on a side out and grabbed the win on a serve out of bounds.
“Marrisa was on fire tonight. Cassie continues to do well. We are starting to find our niche. It’s coming at a good time,” Flowers said.
“We still have Ooltewah. None of us know the district. We haven’t been paying attention to who is winning against who, and who has lost against who. All we want to do right now is take it game by game and play ball.”
The Lady Mustangs broke a 14-14 tie in the finale but could not hold on to a 20-18 lead. Back-to-back Langford kills put Cleveland up 22-20. Bristol pulled Walker Valley within one at 23-22 with a kill, but the Lady Mustangs lost the final two points falling 25-22.
“The girls played hard. They stayed together as a team. We played some really long rallies. As far as effort, we did a great job. We just couldn’t put a ball down at the right time to close out the match,” said Pruett.
Eva Wilhelm closed out the night with three aces, 24 receptions, 21 service points and 34 digs for the Lady Raiders. Langford ended with four blocks while Hale smacked 16 kills and 13 digs. Jessica Murray had 25 receptions, 18 digs, four kills and four assists, and teammate Kayla Lee picked up six digs. Geren worked 38 assists and Abdullah-Muhammad scored five kills and three blocks. K.K. Clements finished with 26 receptions and 17 digs while Martin booked a pair of aces. Aneisha Martin ended with two blocks and two kills.
For the Lady Mustangs, Taylor Pruett notched three aces, two assists, 29 digs and 25 receptions and Abby Campbell finished with one ace, 19 assists, three kills, and 10 digs. Bristol Snider ended with 13 assists, six kills, nine digs and two receptions, teammate Baylee Boen powered down 14 kills, 10 digs and one reception. Eryn Walker chalked up one ace, one assist, one kill, nine digs and six receptions while Autumn Sizemore recorded four aces, eight kills and three digs. Nikki Prugh came away with one block, five kills, three digs and three receptions and Rachel Lawhorn picked up three blocks and six kills. Christian Whittemore served one ace and earned six digs and two receptions while Madison Pruett took home three kills, two digs and one reception. Alex Rominger finished with two digs and three receptions and Ashlyn Flock marked two receptions.