The emotion and energy were so high in the second semifinal in the District 5-A volleyball tournament at Arts & Sciences, it caused host-school coach Brandon Lowry to rekindle some thoughts of the big-time boys' basketball games played inside the former Riverside High School gymnasium.
The crowd Monday at CSAS didn't come close to rivaling one of those basketball games, but those cheering for the Lady Patriots seemed to provide the spark they fed off in surprising district regular-season co-champion Silverdale Baptist 3-2. Game scores were 13-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-16, 15-12.
The top-seeded team and other co-champion, Boyd-Buchanan, held off fourth-seeded Grace Academy 3-1 with the game scores 25-21, 25-10, 14-25, 25-12.
Grace's Lady Golden Eagles beat Copper Basin 3-0 in a play-in match, 25-8, 25-14, 25-17.
The championship match is today at Arts & Sciences at 5 p.m.
The Riverside referrence aside, Lowry did not want to slight the boys' and girls' basketball teams at the current school. He alluded to them when he said the gym usually isn't that energized "until at least November."
"Tonight Silverdale had a good crowd, and we had a good crowd," Lowry said. "It was kind of like an old CSAS-Howard basketball game, and about as hot as then, too.
"It's exciting to see that kind of energy in this gym for volleyball. This is a group of great girls and they've got a team mentality. We don't have a superstar. We don't have the most talent we've had. What we have is a special group that has bonded together that just give it all they have."
The CSAS fans didn't have much to cheer about early. After scoring the first point, the third-seeded Lady Patriots surrendered 11 consecutive on the way to a loss -- and a stern motivational speech from Lowry. They regrouped from there and defeated a team that had beaten them 3-0 twice in the regular season.
"They were better than us tonight," Silverdale coach Rhonda Hawkins said. "They've worked hard and improved a lot. They deserved to win. It hurts. We had a good season. I don't want to take anything away from that. I just hate that it ended tonight."
Lowry said his team had to work through some players' family issues early on. He also said a change from a 6-2 set to a 5-1 enabled them to move Liana Rodrigues to strong-side hitter and she produced 11 kills Monday.
"That move gave us a lot more offense," Lowry said, "which is what we were weak on."
Briana Wesley led CSAS (13-10) in kills with 13. Brittany Patmon had 34 assists and CiCi Strickland had 17 digs. Senior Hannah Ross, whose only duty is serving, had five aces, including the last two points of the match.
The leaders for Silverdale (22-20) included Reagan Robertson with eight kills and Katelyn Couch with eight assists. Kerri Whitaker had 15 digs and four aces.
After getting off to a 2-0 start, Boyd-Buchanan (21-22) went through a third-game swoon. Coach Ashley Scott said the Lady Bucs can't afford any more mental letdowns if they expect to win the tournament.
"We can be a great hitting team one game, then play terrible defense the next game," Scott said. "Inconsistency has been the biggest problem for us.
"More than anything we've hit better and better as the season has gone on. At the beginning of the season that's something we really, really struggled with."
Five Lady Bucs had at least seven kills, led by Taylor Wolfe with 12. Kristen Reynolds had 34 assists and Katie Delay had 15 digs. Sarah Cupp and Jessica Kirk combined for 22 digs and 10 aces.
Lexie Dean sparked the Lady Golden Eagles against Boyd-Buchanan with six kills, nine assists and eight digs. Erika Goodman led the defense with 35 digs, and Christina Armao contributed six kills and four aces.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.