Red Bank volleyball coach Christel Brooks took a chance by calling a timeout about as early as one could in the second set Thursday in her team's TSSAA Class AA state sectional at Signal Mountain. But counting the end of the first set, which they lost, the Lady Lions had surrendered 10 consecutive points.
Things turned around after that brief pause in play, and they defeated the host Lady Eagles 3-2.
Red Bank (35-16) advances to the state tournament Wednesday through Friday in Murfreesboro.
The Lady Lions lost the first set 25-15 and were down 2-0 starting the second when Brooks chose to use one of her two timeouts. Out of the break they got a kill from Shelby Hayes and outscored Signal Mountain 65-46 the rest of the way. The final four games were 25-22, 25-16, 22-25, 15-10 in Red Bank's favor.
"We had let two balls pretty much drop. I decided I was going for it," Brooks said of her decision. "I told them, 'This is not our team.' I just challenged them. I looked them in the eye and told them, 'We need to do a complete 180.' I think from then on, we were a different team."
As far as the technical aspects of the match, serving played the biggest role. Although four aces were all her team produced, Brooks had her team with three missed serves in the five sets. The Lady Eagles reached double figures.
"We missed serves, that's it," Signal Mountain coach Jennifer Redman said. "We missed them at crucial times; we missed them after timeouts; we missed them when we had momentum; missed serves, missed serves, missed serves. You can't win missing serves."
Hayes led the hitting for Red Bank with 22 kills in what Brooks called her best match of the season. Danielle Moore supported with 21 kills, and her 16 digs were second to Ansley Helton's 19. Savannah Nelson helped at the net with 11 kills and four blocks, and Abby Graham had 41 assists.
Gardner-Webb-bound Callie Hildebrand's 26 kills and 18 digs topped the Lady Eagles, who end their season 34-21. Laura Powell chipped in with 10 kills and 15 digs. Paige Scudder had 11 digs to go with her 42 assists, and Allie Jennings served four aces.
"I'm proud of them because we made it to sub-state," Redman said. "The way we played at Notre Dame three weeks ago, I wasn't sure we'd make it to region. They turned it around at crunch time, which was good."
This marks the fourth consecutive berth for the Lady Lions, who got to a Class AAA semifinal and then played in the last two Class AA finals, winning in 2009.
"This team has something special inside," Brooks said. "They communicate more than any team I've coached. The team chemistry is as good as on any team I've coached. There's no superstar. It's a blue-collar team and everybody does their role. They have confidence and belief that they'll have Red Bank volleyball back in that final match."
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.