After bowing out in a semifinal each of the last three years, one might figure Sale Creek's volleyball team would have its sights set on a winning the Region 3-A championship this season. However, postseason begins with district play, and the Lady Panthers showed Tuesday they were focused on the task at hand.
They defeated Lookout Valley 3-0 in the District 6-A championship match after beating Whitwell 3-0 in a semifinal. Game scores in the title match were 25-15, 25-16, 25-9. Scores against the Lady Tigers were 25-11, 25-10, 25-9.
Coach Debbie Hill, who has been at Sale Creek for 31 years, although not all as the high school volleyball coach, said she can't recall the Lady Panthers winning a district volleyball championship before this one.
Now Sale Creek (44-12) can turn its attention to getting past its recent stumbling block when it hosts the region tournament Tuesday. Arts & Sciences (13-11), which came from the No. 3 seeding to become the District 5 runner-up, will be the opponent.
"Any time you advance to the region, the teams that are there are there because they're good," Hill said. "Luck plays out before you get to that level."
Boyd-Buchanan (22-22) will face Lookout Valley (14-9) in the other semifinal. The winners will play afterward for the region title.
The Lady Panthers found themselves down 4-1 at the start of the championship match. That was about the closest thing to adversity they faced.
They closed the first set on an 11-3 run and had a run of consecutive points in the second game that turned a tie score into a 19-9 lead. They followed up by scoring the first five points in the deciding game on the way to building a 21-6 lead.
"Our passing was really good," Hill said. "That gave us a chance to get the ball up to the front. When we control the ball, we play well. I know that's what everybody says, but it's true."
Coach's daughter Erin Hill was selected the tournament's most valuable player. She had 16 kills and five aces in both matches Tuesday and a combined 22 digs.
Chelsi Roark totaled nine kills and 23 digs on the night and served five aces against Whitwell. Megan Story was the Lady Panthers' assists leader in the two matches with 29, and Megan Weatherford totaled 26 digs.
"We just came up against a much better team," Lookout Valley coach Pat Conard said. "They're just good, all the way around. The first game I thought we might give them a run for their money, but we just didn't have enough steam."
The Lady Yellow Jackets had beaten Marion County 25-9, 25-6, 25-9 in their semifinal. It earned their first region berth since they were region champions in 2001.
"It was something the seniors wanted," Conard said of getting back to the region. "They had a goal in mind."
Destiny Haines led Lookout Valley with 17 kills and 31 digs in the two matches. Ashley Perrymond contributed 15 kills. Starla Collins, who had five aces in the semifinal, had 28 assists overall.
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.