State tournament dreams turn to reality this week for five volleyball teams in the 5Star Preps coverage area.
Webb School of Knoxville will go for its sixth consecutive state title in Division II-A, while Catholic will seek to reclaim the Division I Class AA title it won in 2016 before a runner-up finish last year.
Concord Christian School makes its fourth straight trip to state in Division II-A but must get past Webb to claim its first state championship in any sport.
On the other end of the spectrum are Heritage and Gatlinburg-Pittman — both making first-ever appearances in the state volleyball tournament – Heritage in Division I Class AAA and G-P in Class A.
First-round matches are Tuesday in Murfreesboro. Championship matches are Thursday.
The Class A, AA, and AAA are eight-team, double-elimination formats, while the Division II-A tournament is a four-team, double-elimination format.
Here are a few storylines to watch as state volleyball action begins (followed by a peak at Tuesday’s region soccer semifinals, which are elimination games):
Talk about tough luck.
Heritage (29-6) makes its state tournament debut on the home court of Murfreesboro Siegel (27-13) at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.
All of Tuesday’s matches in Class AAA are at Siegel High, which will be making its sixth consecutive state appearance and its 12th in 15 years.
Heritage probably will be playing in front of Siegel’s entire student body for its inaugural match at state.
“We fought so hard for the home-court advantage (in the postseason),” Heritage coach Jason Keeble said. “All of a sudden, we make it to state and play the host team during school.”
Keeble thought he might catch a break when he realized Saturday that Siegel starts fall break this coming week. Then Keeble called his brother Jeff, who lives in nearby Franklin. Jeff Keeble said Siegel starts fall break on Wednesday, so students will begin fall break by watching their volleyball team before leaving school.
Coach Keeble expects a packed Siegel gym.
“I’ll sell it to my kids, ‘This will be a fun environment. Enjoy the moment. Take it and compete,’ “” Keeble said.
Heritage is led by senior outside hitter/setter Kailey Keeble, Jason Keeble’s daughter and a Tennessee commitment.
Kailey Keeble has played at the highest level of club volleyball.
“Kailey likes that kind of atmosphere,” Jason Keeble said. “She’s fine with it. To be honest, so am I. I’m just a little worried about how some of our sophomores will handle it at first.”
Five-time defending state champion Brentwood (43-3) is on the other half of the draw from Heritage and plays its first-round match against Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett (37-3) on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Last year, Seigel went 2-2 at state for a third-place finish with a loss to Brentwood in the winners-bracket final and a loss to Ravenwood in the losers-bracket final.
“They’re here on a regular basis,” Keeble said of Siegel. “It is what it is. That’s what we’re chasing. Hopefully we can get to where Heritage is one of the teams going (to state) every year.”
If Heritage wins its opener Tuesday, it plays again Tuesday at 6 against the Cookeville-Collierville winner. If Heritage loses, it plays again Tuesday at 9 against the Cookeville-Collierville loser.
The Class AAA tournament moves to Blackman High on Wednesday and goes to MTSU on Thursday for the championship match at 4 p.m. ET.
Catholic (23-8) persevered through injuries this season for its fifth consecutive trip to state.
The Lady Irish, who’ve lost four starters since preseason, face Jackson South Side (44-7) in their opening match Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET at Middle Tennessee State University.
All Class AA state matches are played at MTSU.
“We’re playing really good with all the injuries we’ve had,” Catholic coach Brent Carter said.
Catholic was state runner-up in 2006, 2015, and last year, when it lost to Portland in four sets in the state championship match.
The Lady Irish beat Portland in four sets in the winners-bracket final. (Unlike other TSSAA sports, volleyball’s state format has the team coming out of the losers bracket only needing one victory over the winners-bracket winner for a state title, not two victories for a state title.)
Portland is on the other side of the bracket from Catholic and plays Sullivan South (31-10) in its opener Tuesday at noon ET.
“It would not have surprised us if we played Portland in the first round,” Carter said. “We were expecting that. It is what it is at this point. We’re not afraid to play Portland. We’re ready for them if we get the opportunity.”
If Catholic beats Jackson South Side, it plays again Tuesday at 6 ET against the Camden-East Hamilton winner. If Catholic loses its opener, it plays Tuesday at 9 against the Camden-East Hamilton loser.
Carter had a limited scouting report of Jackson South Side as of Saturday.
“We had another coach tell us how they did against them, but honestly we don’t know anything about them,” Carter said.
It’s the end of an era (sort of) for Webb School of Knoxville volleyball regardless of what happens in the Division II-A tournament this week.
Chris Hames is in her seventh year as Webb’s coach and has had at least one of her two daughters on her teams for the past six years.
Nicklin Hames is a freshman starting setter at Nebraska this fall, while Kayleigh Hames is a senior outside hitter for the Lady Spartans this year. Kayleigh has committed to Pepperdine.
“It’s going to be different (next year),” Chris Hames said.
Webb has made a memorable run with the Hames sisters and their mom.
“This is my seventh year, and the first year we made it to the final and lost to St. Cecelia,” Chris Hames said. “We were kind of a Cinderella story.”
Not anymore. And the Lady Spartans are favorites again this week.
Webb (33-7) plays its state opener Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET against St. George’s (19-14) at Blackman High School.
In the other Division II-A opener, Concord Christian School (34-10) plays Hardin Academy (29-11) at noon ET, also at Blackman.
First-round winners don’t play again until Wednesday, while the losers of opening matches play again Tuesday at 4:30 at Blackman in an elimination match.
Concord Christian defeated Goodpasture in three sets Saturday for its Murfreesboro berth, while Webb beat Battle Ground Academy in three sets Friday to advance.
“I think Concord Christian is the next-best team in the state (behind Webb),” Hames said. “We have a good chance of seeing them in the finals.”
Concord Christian features 6-2 outside hitter Sidney Sherrill, who has committed to East Tennessee State University, along with 5-10 freshman outside hitter Annabelle Sulish and freshman libero Karson Brock.
Guess who gets out of school if they go to the Class A state volleyball tournament?
Students at Gatlinburg-Pittman (16-9) were encouraged via the school’s Twitter account to attend Tuesday’s state opener against Watertown (28-2) at MTSU’s Court 2.
All Class A state matches are on MTSU’s Courts 1 and 2.
“Students will be excused from school if they bring back a ticket stub upon returning to school,” G-P wrote on @GPHSHighlanders.
Gatlinburg-Pittman reached a region final and state sectional for the first time in program history this year.
The Lady Highlanders lost to South Greene in the Region 1-A championship match, but defeated Polk in four sets in the sectional for a berth in the state tournament.
If G-P wins its opener Tuesday morning, it plays again Tuesday at 4:30 ET against the Hickman County-Halls winner. If G-P loses Tuesday morning, it plays Tuesday at 7:30 against the Hickman County-Halls loser.
It’s do-or-die time for Division I soccer teams in region semifinal elimination matches Tuesday.
Semifinal winners advance to Thursday’s region championship matches and earn berths in Saturday’s state sectional round. Region champions play host to sectional matches, while region runners-up go on the road for sectional matches.
Sectional winners advance to state quarterfinals in two weeks in Murfreesboro.
In Region 2-AAA semifinals Tuesday, Hardin Valley Academy plays at Powell, while Maryville plays host to Oak Ridge.
Hardin Valley beat Powell 2-0 in August, but Lady Hawks coach Jessie Stephens knows nothing’s a gimme at this point.
“They’ve been playing well as of late,” Stephens said of Powell. “They’re well-coached, and they stick to their game plan. We definitely know we have to come in with our heads on straight and get the job done. It’s not going to be a cakewalk.”
Hardin Valley tied Maryville during the regular season but lost to the Lady Rebels 2-1 on Tuesday in the District 3-AAA championship match.
“You have to play almost your best match to beat Maryville,” Stephens said. “We didn’t quite execute and convert on our opportunities, and they did.”
Powell won the District 4-AAA tournament with a 2-1 victory over Oak Ridge.
In Region 1-AAA semifinals Tuesday, Bearden plays host to Tennessee High of Bristol, while Jefferson County travels to play Science Hill in Johnson City.
Bearden defeated Jefferson County 5-0 for the District 2-AAA championship. Abby Brewer scored two goals for Bearden and Alex Smith, Taylor Cross, and Emily Carlevato had one goal each.
In Region 2-AA semifinal matches, Catholic will play host Grainger, and Central travels to play Gibbs.
Class A defending state champion Alcoa plays host to University High of Johnson City in a Region 1-A semifinal Tuesday, while Gatlinburg-Pittman plays at Chuckey-Doak in the other semifinal. Greenback travels to play Oneida in a Region 2-A semifinal.
Sevier County plays at Greeneville and and Elizabethton plays at Seymour in Region 1-AA semifinals.
Webb, Grace Christian Academy, and Christian Academy of Knoxville all advanced to Tuesday’s Division II-A State 12 matches.
Grace Christian plays Evangelical Christian School in Nashville, CAK faces Jackson Christian School in Nashville, and Webb plays host to University School of Nashville.