MARYVILLE – Senior Night for the Heritage volleyball team had a special twist to it Tuesday night.
The Lady Mountaineers’ three seniors were recognized in a ceremony before the match against Webb, whose only senior, Kayleigh Hames, also was introduced in pre-match and presented a bouquet.
Hames, an outside hitter who has committed to Pepperdine, is best friends with Heritage senior Kailey Keeble, who has committed to play setter for Tennessee.
Their friendship will turn long distance next fall.
“It’s going to be hard,” Hames said after Heritage pulled out a 15-9 victory in the fifth set. “Like tonight, I got emotional watching her walk out for Senior Night, but hopefully I’ll keep in contact with her. It will be good.”
Hames wasn’t the only one who got emotional before the match.
Heritage coach Jason Keeble’s voice cracked as he began to introduce the three seniors: his daughter, Kailey, Ashelyn Vandergriff, and Kaci McBurnett.
All three have played club volleyball with Kayleigh Hames for years at Knoxville’s K2 Volleyball, founded and directed by Kayleigh Hames’ mom, Webb coach Chris Hames.
“I had three seniors that I’m very close to, one being my daughter,” Jason Keeble said. “I was telling my athletic director (Robbie Bennett), you’ve got to take off your ‘dad’ hat and try to announce everybody and then go give (Kailey) a hug and be a dad for a couple of minutes and then put the ‘coach’ hat on.”
That wasn’t easy for the Heritage coach with Kayleigh Hames on the other side of the net.
“My Kailey and Kayleigh Hames have grown up together since they were 6 or 7 years old,” Jason Keeble said. “Kayleigh Hames is like my second daughter. I went to give her a hug (Monday) night when she came to watch us at Hardin Valley and I was going to put my arm around her, but she went up over the top of me, she’s gotten so tall. It’s fun to see these kids grow up and I’m excited to see what they do beyond high school.”
They’ve still got plenty of high school volleyball left with district tournaments starting next week.
Heritage (23-5) is the No. 1 seed in District 3-AAA, and Webb (22-5) is the No. 1 seed in Division II-A East District.
Heritage is the first in-state team to beat Webb this year. The Lady Spartans are five-time defending state champions in Division II-A.
Webb was without Kayleigh Hames for the last two sets against Heritage. She went to the bench with a cramp in her left calf after Heritage posted a 25-19 third-set win for a 2-1 lead in sets.
“It was hurting throughout the game,” Hames said. “I thought I tore it, but it ended up being a cramp. I’m OK. I’ll be fine.”
Hames had 25 kills and nine digs in the first three sets. Webb won the first 25-8 and Heritage won the second 25-23.
“The first set you could tell there were a lot of emotions with how our side was playing,” Kailey Keeble said. “You could tell we were a little choked up, but once we got through that first set, we realized we were playing a game. We turned it on and realized everyone wanted to pitch in and try to win and make it big for our seniors, and we did.”
With Kayleigh Hames on the sideline, Webb rallied for a 25-19 fourth-set win. Heritage regrouped from a 4-0 deficit in the fifth by winning the next 11 points.
“Kayleigh is my favorite person to play against,” Kailey Keeble said. “It’s always a good game whenever we play against each other. It (stinks) that she got hurt. I probably would have enjoyed the win a little bit more if she was on the other side of the net the whole time, but still beating Webb, that’s always a big win.”
Webb setter Haley Jenkins had three aces, three kills, 20 digs and 50 assists. Also for the Lady Spartans, Bailey Musrock had nine kills, 26 digs, and two blocks, and Leoni Kunz had 13 kills and two blocks.
Keeble had 11 kills, 21 assists, and 21 digs for Heritage, while Anna Richardson had 11 kills and five blocks, Lexi Patty had 21 digs, Kelsey Woods 20 service points and five digs, and Vandergriff eight kills and 11 digs.
Webb will have Senior Night on Wednesday for the match against Carter, and on Thursday will play host to Heritage for a rematch of Tuesday.
“For us, being friends of ours and a chance to play good competition (against Heritage), it will make us both better for the postseason,” Webb’s Chris Hames said. “That’s what it’s about.”