Concord Christian finished state runner-up a season ago in the Division II-A state volleyball tournament in Murfreesboro.
And this week, the Lady Lions have every intention of making to the final again and possibly winning it.
But their mettle was tested Tuesday in the opening match at Siegel High School, and Concord Christian proved how tough it was.
CCS outlasted St. George’s in a marathon match, 31-33, 21-25, 25-21, 25-14, 15-12.
The Lady Lions improve to 30-9 and move into Wednesday’s 10 a.m. Central semifinal at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center, where they’ll face Goodpasture (38-4) match from Tuesday afternoon.
Goodpasture, which won five consecutive state championships from 2012-2106, knocked off The King’s Academy in straight sets, 25-20, 25-20, 25-18, early Tuesday afternoon. Concord beat Goodpasture last year to reach the state tournament.
Should Concord Christian lose Wednesday morning to Goodpasture, they’ll still have an opportunity to win a match Wednesday afternoon to earn the right to play in the state championship Thursday morning.
This week marks the fifth consecutive state-tournament appearance for Concord Christian and sixth overall. But the program is still seeking its first state title. The Lady Lions showed the grit necessary to withstand the grind and the intensity of the spotlight in Murfreesboro with their opening win over St. George’s.
“We’re very well conditioned. I think the was a big factor in that match. They (St. George’s) started gassing a little bit,” said Carmen Hochevar, whose CCS team has won 30 or more games in consecutive seasons. “We just got ahead and that fueled us. And when Annabelle Sulish gets a hold of one, it sends such a statement, that it just kind of fires the rest of them up.
“We kept executing and never giving up. Even when we got down, we were still scrappy.”
Sulish had a double-double with 36 kills and 14 digs. Karson Brock was 100 percent at the serving line with four aces and 18 good services. She also led CCS with 28 digs. Emma Meyer had 43 assists.
Still, after falling behind early in the final one, CCS remembered its calling card and its mantra.
“We never missed one serve that last set. That was huge for us,” said Hochevar. “We were behind for the first, I don’t, maybe six points. We weren’t down that much. But we were behind, and I called a timeout and told them. ‘It’s time to rise up.’ That’s something we’ve been saying to them this last couple of matches.
“They wanted it. They played as if they really, really wanted it. … Just being able to get the first win under our belt I think is going to keep up confident that we can move forward.”
A new Division II-A state champion will be crowned this week, as six-time defending state champion Webb didn’t reach the state-tournament field this week.
Concord had a good chance to start a state winning streak of its own, given its program experience and roster scenario.
“I only have one senior that was on the floor today. I have three, but one who was on the floor consistently. So we’re young,” said Hochevar. “We have mostly sophomores on our floor. And we start a freshman. So I think we have a lot of energy.”
Meanwhile, St. George’s fell into a loser’s bracket elimination game against The King’s Academy late on Tuesday afternoon. TKA fell to St. George’s 29-31, 25-16, 19-25, 10-25 and was eliminated from the tournament.
Division II-AA: CATHOLIC
A year ago, Catholic nearly grasped the Class AA state championship, ultimately falling short in the finale.
A transition into Division II-AA hasn’t set the program back, it seems. The Lady Irish knocked off Harpeth Hall in the first round Tuesday, 20-25, 25-15, 27-25, 25-13.
“We had scouted Harpeth Hall, and honestly we may have paralyzed our own kids with information,” said Catholic coach Brent Carter. “So we didn’t play very clean (in the first set), and Harpeth played fantastic. They made a couple of lineup changes, from what we had seen on film, that worked in their favor and did really good.
“And we made the adjustments late in Set 1, and transitioned them into Sets 2, 3 and 4.”
Maya Alves and Carlee Hart each had 13 kills. Cassie Kuerschen had 32 digs, and Devyn Dunn had 12 digs and 43 assists.
Next up, though, Catholic (26-6) will see exactly where it stands versus the state standard, as it will take on Briarcrest (37-4) in the state semifinals at 11:30 Central Wednesday at MTSU. Briarcrest has played in the last four Division II-AA championships, winning two — including last season’s title.
All four of Briarcrest’s losses this season came to out-of-state opponents.
“We never ran across them (this season), but we did get to see them play Baylor tonight,” said Carter. “So we know what we’re looking at with them. They have two girls in particular who are super athletic. Jump high. Can hit the ball well. Their libero is really good.
“Our match with them should be one for the record books.”
Class AA: ANDERSON COUNTY
Making their first appearance in 11 years, the Lady Mavericks started with a bang Tuesday but fell in a heartbreaker to East Hamilton, 25-15, 25-19, 20-25, 18-25, 14-16, in their opening match. AC trailed 8-5 in final set, roared back to take a 13-11 lead but couldn’t hold on, relegating them into a Tuesday night elimination match with Lexington.
Anderson County regrouped, won easily over Lexington (25-15, 25-9, 25-20) and entered the Wednesday losers bracket gauntlet, where they will have to win three contests to reach Thursday’s state championship match.
The Lady Mavericks (36-12) haven’t won a state title since their lone championship in 1999 and haven’t played for a state title since their fourth runner-up finish in program history that came in 2007.
They’ll begin play Wednesday at 10 a.m. Central at Blackman High School against Sullivan South (27-15).
Class A: GATLINBURG-PITTMAN
The Lady Highlanders had very little trouble in the opening round Tuesday, dispensing of a one-loss Memphis East team, 25-9, 25-9, 25-17.
That sent G-P into a second-round contest with Watertown (33-5), a program making its third consecutive state tournament appearance.
Watertown defeated Gatlinburg-Pittman, 25-19, 23-25, 26-24, 25-13, sending the Lady Highlanders into the losers bracket. G-P will have to win three matches Wednesday to qualify for the Thursday state-championship match.
Their first match commences at 10 a.m. Wednesday Central time against either Halls (West Tenn.) or Sale Creek.