TSSAA STATE TOURNAMENT
Division II-AA at Middle Tennessee State
ENSWORTH 3, BAYLOR 2
Ensworth 25 25 25
Baylor 18 20 18
Highlights: E -- ReJean Rouse 16 k, 27 d; Nikka Gittens 10 k, 26 d; Lauren Barnett 7 k, 17 d. B -- Rachel Travis 10 k, 16 d; Nicole Sumida 3 k, 13 d; Lindsey Yates 14 a, 10 d, 3 aces; Madeline Rose 7 k, 2 b, 11 d; Megan Kaylor 6 a, 8 d; Leah Helton 3 k, 3 d; Braleigh Angel 10 d; Macall Nabors 3 aces. Records: Ensworth 34-4; Baylor 31-14.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- If anything gave Baylor more problems than Ensworth's offense Friday, it was Ensworth's defense.
The Lady Tigers put forth a commanding effort and defeated the Lady Red Raiders 3-0 in the championship match of the TSSAA Division II-AA state volleyball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center.
The championship is the second consecutive for Ensworth (34-4), which won by scores of 25-18, 25-20, 25-18. The Lady Raiders had 6-3 and 4-1 leads in the first two sets, but they were quickly erased.
"They played an amazing game," Baylor coach Sarah Lail said of the Lady Tigers. "You've got to give them credit. It seemed like no balls would go down."
Coach Eva Lee, who started Ensworth's program eight years ago, said the Lady Tigers' hitters are adept defensively as well as on attack. ReJean Rouse repeated as most valuable player of the championship match. She had 16 kills and 27 digs, and Nikka Gittens and Lauren Barnett combined for 17 kills and 43 digs.
"We dig balls," Lee said. "We don't use a libero. Our middles play all the way around, they're such great athletes. To me the difference wasn't about our offense, it was about our defense."
Ensworth got up 19-4 in the third set, but rather than fold the Lady Raiders battled back within 22-15, causing Lee to call time out for the only time in the match.
The Lady Tigers won the teams' East/Middle Region regular-season match 3-2 on Oct. 1 in Nashville.
"Baylor is such a tough team," Lee said. "We have a great rivalry. I have so much respect for their coaching staff, coach Sarah Lail and their kids. I just think this was one of those days where we did a lot of things right."
The finals appearance was the fifth for Baylor (31-14), which won Division II titles in 1997 and '98.
Rachel Travis paced the Lady Raiders with 10 kills and 16 digs. Lindsey Yates led with 14 assists and three aces. Madeline Rose led with two blocks and chipped in with seven kills and 11 digs.
"I couldn't be more proud of our girls this season," Lail said. "To make it to the state championship is quite an accomplishment. It was just their day. I give us credit for trying to make a comeback at the end, but it was too little, too late.
"They should be extremely proud of getting here and all they accomplished. We're very proud we'll still be bringing home a trophy."
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.