The Bearettes rolled back into town riding high after defeating Region 3 tournament host Cookeville 25-19, 25-20 and 26-24 Monday at Cookeville High School.
The win guarantees the Bearettes at least second place in the region and a trip to the substate. With a victory over Ooltewah, which dispatched Soddy-Daisy in the first game on Monday, and the Bearettes will host the sub-state matchup.
The Bearettes and Lady Owls face off tonight at 7 p.m. at Ooltewah.
“It’s kind of an exciting moment. My heart hasn’t stopped racing yet,” said a beaming Bearettes coach Christy McElhaney after the straight-set win. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this position. I’ve always felt like this group, if they really wanted to push it, they could get here and be successful.
“The second half of our season wasn’t near what our first half was. It was more of a downhill slide. So, to see us starting to pick it back up and come back up is great.”
The Bearettes came back from an early 5-3 deficit to build an 11-6 lead. Lisa Duvall made it 13-6 with an ace before the Lady Cavaliers began to chip away at the Bradley Central cushion. Cookeville cut a 17-11 lead to 17-15 and trailed 18-17 before a serve into the net gave the Bearettes a 19-17 advantage. From there, the Bearettes ripped off four more points, including a Duvall ace and Brianna Howard kill. A Kayla Arp block made it 23-17. Cookeville picked up one more point before Brooke Copeland ended it with a kill for the 25-19 win.
“The first two games, we started off very rocky. They came out with three or four points right off the bat. We shanked a few serves, but once we settled in and took the lead we kind of went with it,” said McElhaney.
The second game saw the Lady Cavs and Bearettes battle toe-to-toe for the first 17 points. Rebecca Reuter tied the game at 17-17 and Chanler Grady gave the Bearettes an 18-17 lead. Consecutive aces by Reuter put Bradley up 20-17. A Copeland kill and another Reuter ace made it 22-17. The Lady Cavs picked up two more points to make it 22-19. Kayla Arp served the Bearettes’ 24th point and a gift of a net serve by Cookeville put Game 2 in the books with a 25-20 Bradley win.
“The second game was kind of point-for-point. We kept letting them hang in. We would do something good then we would do something silly. After we reached 15 or 16, we started inching away a little bit,” McElhaney assessed.
The final game of the night started out in much the same fashion as Game 2. Cookeville broke a 10-10 tie to take a three-point lead and then built a 16-12 advantage. The Lady Cavaliers stayed hot and upped the margin to 21-14. The Bearettes kept it close but trailed 23-19 minutes later. The Lady Cavaliers made it 24-19 and with Cookeville fans holding up one finger to signify one point to go, looked poised to take the win. Seconds later, it was Bradley Central holding up one finger after Duvall stepped to the line and served up six straight points to make it 25-24, thanks to kills by Reuter and Copeland. Reuter put an end to the night with a block that fell to the court, giving the Bearettes the win.
“We got a little sloppy in the third game. We missed way too many serves. We weren’t serving as aggressively and we were missing serves. We also got a little lazy on shutting down the block. We were allowing a lot of balls to hit the floor on the left side,” said McElhaney. “Once I threw some new people in and got some fresh legs going it seemed to kind of spark them up a little bit.”
The Bearettes will wind up the tournament a little closer to home and have a chance to stay in town for Thursday’s sub-state appearance.
“Tomorrow we go to Ooltewah. That has been one of our toughest rivals all year long. It’s going to be a matter of which team shows up for us. We’ve taken two games off of them, they have taken two games off of us this year. It will be a tough matchup, I hope,” said the Bearettes coach.
“It’s great that both teams from our district are still in the sectionals. Big kudos to Ooltewah for sealing it so we can come back home tomorrow.”
Arp ended her night with 25 assists for the Bearettes and booked six digs. Reuter cracked 13 kills and 10 digs and Copeland booked 14 kills and nine digs in the win. Grady walked away with 11 digs and eight service points. Duvall ended with 11 service points for Bradley.