Cleveland coach Trish Flowers said it is very helpful to her squad to play a team of Red Bank’s stature early in the year.
This aggressive philosophy will continue in the Lady Raiders’ home opener Thursday against annual title contender Soddy-Daisy. The varsity match will begin at about 6:15 p.m., preceded by freshman and junior varsity play.
“I am so proud of the girls for how they played (Tuesday),” Flowers said. “We couldn't seem to make anything happen in game three, but we adjusted in game four. They have amazing chemistry and did not let a little rut get to them.
“Due to a major knee injury, one of our key passers (Gabby — a senior) will be out this season and that has been hard on all of us, but we have a lot of depth and it was great to see the team play so well without her.”
Flowers said Kristen Pickett, Ayesha Rock, and Jessica Davenport hit “really well” against Red Bank. “I'm proud of Courtney Whitlock, too, a junior who has not only improved immensely but is going to help us out a lot this season in the front row.”
“Defensively, Payton Tipton was solid.” Flowers added. “She did a fantastic job of digging the line in game five, which is where Red Bank tried to get us. Her ability to read the hitter and anticipate is going to missed when she graduates.”
Flowers said her girls were a little tight with tension in the opening game, but settled down as the match continued. Cleveland won the first game 25-20 and followed with a 25-15 win in the second game.
The Lady Lions then rallied for a 25-14 victory. Cleveland put the game away with seven consecutive points to open the fourth game, eventually winning by a 25-20 score.
Flowers said she was proud of how her Lady Raiders put the loss behind them and went forward for the victory. “We adjusted and started hitting the ball down the line in the final game,” she said. “We also changed our defense a little bit.”
The winning point came on a dink by Rock.
Red Bank coach Christel Brooks had praise for the Lady Raiders. “Cleveland is a very good team with a lot of experience,” she said.
Pickett sparked the Lady Raiders with 14 assists, 14 digs, nine kills and three aces. Other statistical leaders included Rock with 14 digs, 10 assists, nine kills and five aces. Also contributing to the win were Tipton, Brooke Miller, Kayla Gash, Davenport, Whitlock and Marissa Langford.
n Cleveland’s junior varsity also won its season opener with scores of 25-15 and 25-18.
“The junior varsity played well and stayed relaxed,” Flowers said. “We have a lot of talent on this team that we hope to sharpen by the end of the season, but I was very impressed with how quick they gelled out there.
“Amber Botts and Sydney Anderson hit well and served well. I felt that Jessica Murray played a solid game all the way around as well. We have some younger players who impressed me. It’s going to be neat to see this lineup evolve over the course of the season because a lot of girls are improving so quickly.”
Others contributing to the JV win were Qeturwah Abdullah-Muhammad, Cassie Hale, Yoshi Hooks, Jasmine Martin, Jacora Parker, Katherine Plate, Deja Thompson, Zanna Thompson and Courtney Whitlock.