So far, so good for the Concord Christian School volleyball team.
The Lady Lions haven’t had to overextend themselves too much this week at the Division II-A state tournament. While they played a lengthy five-set match on Tuesday, they still won it and didn’t have to face an elimination game that same day.
They avoided that same scenario Wednesday, as well.
CCS knocked off Goodpasture, 25-18, 25-17, 25-16, on Wednesday morning at MTSU in Murfreesboro to avoid any elimination situation and cruised into Thursday’s state title game against St. George’s.
Concord came ready to compete Wednesday against Goodpasture, a program replete with state-tournament history. Emma Meyer and Mikayla Profit each finished 100 percent at the serving line, and Meyer had 30 assists. Sophomore outside hitter Annabelle Sulish and Profeta finished with 12 kills apiece, and Karson Brock led CCS with 11 digs.
Catherine Sweeney, a freshman, contributed a season-high eight kills.
“We did come to play. Annabelle wasn’t her ultimate self today. But we had other ones around her that were just as strong and filled the gap until she did get on,” said CCS coach Carmen Hochevar.
“She’s our leader. She was chosen by the team as the captain … Annabelle’s the head captain. The kid, when I have something that needs to be taken down or put away, she’s always the first on it. Her makeup and her chemistry is leader, through and through. You never have to ask her twice to do anything, and she’s coachable that way as well.”
Concord beat St. George’s on Tuesday in five sets, with the first set’s score being 33-31. Should they pull off the win again, the Lady Lions would become state champions for the first time in program history. They finished state runner-up last season, when Webb won its sixth consecutive state champion.
But CCS isn’t taking this opportunity for granted just because they’ve already beaten St. George’s.
“We lost to them the first two sets (Tuesday) and then had to scramble back. It was not an easy win. It was a hard-fought battle. So they know,” Hochevar said of her players. “They (St. George’s) have three solid players on their team. And, we’re going to have to fight for it. I know we will.”
Concord’s experience could come into play at MTSU’s Murphy Center, where the depth-perception comes into play at state volleyball much like it does with basketball teams shooting there in March.
“I talk about it every year,” said Hochevar. “When we serve, it looks like we have more court than we actually do. For the ones who haven’t played in it or the ones who have, we could miss our serve because of that. So, it plays a huge part in it.”
Still, starting out strong with their passes will be key tomorrow against St. George’s, per Hochevar.
“Our passes dictate our tempo. And if we can start off strong with that,” she said, “everything else picks up.”
DIVISION II-AA: Catholic earns fifth consecutive title-match appearance
The Lady Irish are back in the state final.
But this time, they’ll be playing for the Division II-AA state championship. The previous four seasons, Catholic played in the Class AA state final and won it all in 2016.
On Thursday, they’ll try to dethrone the Division II-AA defending champion Briarcrest — which has won seven titles overall and beat Catholic in a morning match Wednesday, 25-17, 25-22, 20-25, 26-24.
“They are completely full of Division I college signees, and they are very, very good,” Catholic coach Brent Carter said. “And it was a really good match. And I’m excited to go into the final tomorrow.
“We just have to come out stronger in the early sets. Briarcrest has all the ability in the world to make a good team like us look really bad if they’re clicking on all cylinders,” added Carter. “So we have to execute our strategy to keep them more one- or two-dimensional, instead of them having four hitters available at all times — three in the front row and one in the back.”
Catholic won its elimination match Wednesday afternoon against Baylor, 23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 29-27, to earn a rematch against Briarcrest. So even after dropping its opening match Wednesday and the opening set in its second match, Catholic never mashed a panic button.
“No panic at all. They knew that we were not playing well. Baylor made some lineup changes that worked exceptionally well for them,” said Carter. “But we got the adjustments down, and we built a decent lead in the second set and closed it out. We built some small 4- and 5-point leads in the third and fourth sets. And then they (Baylor) made a run at the end of those sets to make it tight.”
Gatlinburg-Pittman, Anderson County exit
The Gatlinburg-Pittman volleyball team fell to Halls of West Tennessee on Wednesday morning at Siegel High School to exit the Class A state tournament with the 3-1 loss: 21-25, 18-25, 25-13, 15-25. The Lady Highlanders were making their second consecutive state tournament appearance, which also happened to be their second appearance all-time.
Meanwhile, Anderson County was trying to further an already deep volleyball tradition in Class AA. The Lady Mavericks have five title-match appearances and have won one state title (1999). But their quest this season to return to their first state championship match since 2007 fell just shy.
AC had to win three matches Wednesday to reach Thursday’s championship round, and it got the day started with a exhaustive 22-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-22, 15-10 win over Sullivan South. The Lady Mavericks bowed out in the second match, falling to East Hamilton in five sets, 26-24, 17-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-8.
“They didn’t quit playing (Wednesday) and didn’t give up,” said Smith, who’s in her 10th season as coach. “Had a call gone one way or the other, or a play here or there, and we’d have been right back in it. But we expended a lot of energy (in the win) against (Sullivan) South. It could have been that we got a little tired.
“But I was very proud of our girls today.”
AC coach Jayme Smith said the goal all along this season was for this team to reach the state final four and see what happened once they got there. They achieved that goal. And while they wanted more, that might come in 2020.
The Lady Mavericks return their entire roster for next fall. AC started four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman.
“They have grown. We told them, ‘You’ll be back,'” said Smith of the message to the team Wednesday. “There’s no excuse not to be back.”