Down two games to one and facing an 11-3 deficit in game four of the District 6-AA volleyball tournament Tuesday, East Hamilton decided this wasn't the time to end its season.
The third-year program scrapped its way back into the game against Hixson, won it 25-22 and prevailed in the deciding fifth game 15-10 to win a 3-2 semifinal thriller.
East Hamilton (29-9) will face top-seeded Red Bank (32-15), a 3-0 winner over Central, in Thursday's championship match at 6:30 p.m.
"It's the biggest win in East Hamilton volleyball history," Lady Hurricanes coach Kristy Lenoir said. "This is what they've been working on for three years, and I'm very proud of them. They were just willing to battle tonight, and that's what we've been struggling with all year."
The first two games -- 25-22 to Hixson and 25-17 to East Hamilton -- were seesaw affairs filled with more errors than either coach was happy with. Play picked up in game three as East Hamilton, led by the big hitting of Elizabeth Behrend, ran out to a 16-10 lead. Hixson, however, caught fire behind Katie Ware, who had three kills and two blocks during a 15-7 run to end the game.
Hixson began the next game on fire as Ware continued her hot play with four more kills during the 11-3 start that appeared to have the Lady Hurricanes staggering. A timeout seemed to regroup Lenoir's team, and freshman Kylie Scruggs started to dominate up front with three kills during a 8-2 run that closed the deficit to two.
East Hamilton later went on a 6-2 run to take control of the game and won it as Allison Walden hit a winner, then recorded a block. The final game was tied at 8 when Bailey Considine put away an easy kill after a strong serve by Morgan Phillips, and Emma Lenoir ended a long rally with a kill and a two-point lead.
A Walden block and a winner by Behrend ended the two-hour match.
"In that fourth game we realized that if we lose we go home," said Scruggs, who led East Hamilton with 12 kills. "We wanted to keep playing, especially for our seniors. We had to go for everything and not give up. It's awesome to win this and to know that we're going to be playing next week."
Behrend added 11 kills, with Sydney Harris getting 22 assists and Lenoir 21. For Hixson (28-22), Ware had 23 kills, 12 blocks, 25 digs and four aces, with Kennady Thomason adding 11 kills and four blocks.
"There are usually a lot of ups and downs when we play each other. We didn't play as smart as I would have preferred," Hixson coach Janet Tate said. "That's a very good team over there, and we have a very good team here. It just didn't go our way tonight.
In Red Bank's three-game sweep of Central, Danielle Moore, Savannah Nelson and Shelby Hayes combined for 35 kills and setter Abby Graham had 38 assists.
"It's a big win in that it puts us in the championship and guarantees us to be playing in the region," said Red Bank coach Christal Brooks, whose team defeated East Hamilton in the regular season. "I liked how we played tonight and we'll have to play well again Thursday."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...